"Staph" bacteria prefer the taste of human blood, Vanderbilt University scientists have discovered.
"Staph" bacteria feed on blood. They need the iron that's hidden away inside red blood cells to grow and cause infections.
The researchers report that Staphylococcus aureus (staph) favours human hemoglobin - the oxygen-carrying protein that contains iron - over hemoglobin from other animals.
The findings help explain why staph preferentially infects people and suggest that genetic variations in hemoglobin may make some individuals more susceptible to staph infections.
Staph lives in the noses of about 30 percent of all people - usually without making them ill, said Eric Skaar, associate professor of Microbiology and Immunology.
The study has been reported in the Dec. 16 issue of Cell Host and Microbe.