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Southern Miss Professor and Student Develop Staphylococcus Aureus Microarray Meta-Database

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In the ongoing search for a vaccine to battle the aggressive methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, a University of Southern Mississippi biological science professor and student have developed an online database that holds collected data on genes related to staph.

The Staphylococcus aureus microarray meta-database, known as SAMMD, launched this semester under the direction of associate professor Dr. Mohamed Elasri.

"We've added this bioinformatics tool, specific to staph infection, that allows researchers worldwide to be able to take their favorite gene and look up all the information there is about it," Elasri said.

“This database is unique. Other databases only tell you about the papers published on staph, but you cannot cross-reference them with other publications. With SAMMD, you can enter your favorite gene name and this will find all the information extracted from these published papers for you."

Staphylococcus aureus is an important human pathogen, causing a variety of diseases and infections. Strains of staph are increasing - each with its own chromosome that is composed of about 2,500 genes.

Some, like methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, have acquired or mutated genes immune to current antibiotics.

MRSA infections occur in an estimated 94,000 persons each year and are associated with about 19,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The search and study of genes related to staph is more imperative than ever to find a vaccine that can impact the new strains of staph.

Developers are constantly updating SAMMD to include the most current staph data. The database has a regulated gene list of approximately 12,236, which is continually increasing.

"We are regularly looking for papers on staphylococcus microarray," said Vijayaraj Nagarajan, a doctoral student who developed the SAMMD with Dr. Elasri. Microarray is a gene chip technology used to tag a gene for study.

"All of this research everyone is doing is to find that target gene, mutate it and look for its affect among the rest of the genes," he said.

There are more than 500 SAMMD users from 29 states within the United States and 27 countries with numbers increasing daily. As researchers work to find a vaccine for MRSA, Elasri said this program can cut a significant amount of time it takes to find information about staphylococcal genes.

"This is a great research tool that saves tons of time," Elasri said. “SAMMD allows researchers to do genetic analyses that were previously impossible to do.”