A common culprit of skin and respiratory infections, Staphylococcus aureus is highly unpredictable. Between 20 and 30 percent of people carry quiet colonies on their skin and in their nostrils, which seldom cause problems beyond the occasional rash. But in some cases these bacteria cause infections that lead to deadly complications, such as pneumonia, deep skin infections, and sepsis. Until recently, there was no way to predict which infections may take a lethal turn.

Staphylococcus aureus /CDC

Now, a new study describes mutations that predispose patients to severe staph infections. The research, published in Science, identifies a mutated gene common to multiple patients who suffer life-threatening infections and suggests that people living with a genetic condition known as 5p- or Cri-du-chat syndrome may be at similar risk.

“We have characterized severe Staphylococcus aureus infection at the genetic, cellular, immunological, and clinical levels,” says András Spaan, first author on the study. “By integrating these levels, we have established causality and provided clues for future interventions.”

Read more at the Rockefeller University