Surprising toxin discovery paves way for skin inflammation treatments

The toxins produced by an infection of a typically harmless bacteria called Staphylococcus aureus have been found to trigger wound healing, researchers have announced. The findings were surprising in light of what a 'staph' infection does to tissues, causing inflammation, boils, cellulitis, and more. Though the toxins produced by a staph infection cause damage to tissues and cells, the new study has found that toxins produced by the bacteria also trigger wound healing.

The Staphylococcus aureus bacteria is generally harmless and many people currently have it on their skin. The body's immune system can deal with the bacteria, but in cases where the immune system is compromised, the bacteria may be able to rapidly multiply, leading to infections that may be hard to treat — particularly if the person is infected with a drug-resistant bacteria strain.

The infection can lead to potentially serious skin issues, including boils and severe inflammation, something triggered by the toxins produced by the bacteria. Researchers with Friedrich-Schiller-Universitaet Jena have found that these same toxins produced by the bacteria also stimulate immune cells to produce compounds that cool down inflammation and help wounds heal.

The surprising discovery may have opened the door to future treatments for conditions that result in chronic wounds and skin inflammation, according to the researchers, who used an animal model to demonstrate that the immune stimulation process promotes tissue regeneration, ultimately helping the wounds heal.

The study focuses on a particular toxin called α-Hemolysin, which was found to bind to receptors on a type of immune cell called M2 macrophages, which work to help the body clear away damaged tissue and regenerate new, healthy tissues. When the toxin binds to the immune cells, the result is the production of anti-inflammatory chemicals that cool down the staph-induced inflammation, helping the wounds heal.