Monday, July 26, 2010

Playing chess with MRSA

Researchers from Duke University Medical Center developed a protein design algorithm that is capable of predicting potential drug resistance mutations in MRSA. The algorithm turns predicting mutations into a game of chess where the computer is like a chess player that tries to anticipate an opponent's moves.

The researchers built the algorithm to look for mutations in a specific MRSA enzyme called dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR). DHFR is necessary for MRSA to replicate itself and is also a key source of drug-resistant mutation. The algorithm looks for mutations in DHFR with two key characteristics. First is a positive design mutation which is a mutation that still allows the enzyme to function. The second is a negative design mutation which is a mutation that blocks the function of the drug.

The algorithm could be incorporated into better drug design to beat MRSA's drug-resistant mutations. For example, scientists would be able to design drugs that can pre-emptively deal with possible resistance in the future.

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