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J Microbiol Biotechnol. 2011 Apr;21(4):391-9.

An innate bactericidal oleic acid effective against skin infection of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus: a therapy concordant with evolutionary medicine.

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Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0671, USA.


Free fatty acids (FFAs) are known to have bacteriocidal activity and are important components of the innate immune system. Many FFAs are naturally present in human and animal skin, breast milk, and in the bloodstream. Here, the therapeutic potential of FFAs against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is demonstrated in cultures and in mice. Among a series of FFAs, only oleic acid (OA) (C18:1, cis-9) can effectively eliminate Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) through cell wall disruption. Lauric acid (LA, C12:0) and palmitic acid (PA, C16:0) do not have this ability. OA can inhibit growth of a number of Gram-positive bacteria, including hospital and community-associated MRSA at a dose that did not show any toxicity to human sebocytes. The bacteriocidal activities of FFAs were also demonstrated in vivo through injection of OA into mouse skin lesions previously infected with a strain of MRSA. In conclusion, our results suggest a promising therapeutic approach against MRSA through boosting the bacteriocidal activities of native FFAs, which may have been co-evolved during the interactions between microbes and their hosts.

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