“We gave the mice a blocker of all caspases [pancaspase inhibitor], a compound known as Q-VD-OPH, thinking it would leave both sets of mice more vulnerable to MRSA infection,” Miller says. “To our surprise, blocking caspases had the opposite effect, resulting in a rapid and remarkable clearing of the MRSA bacteria by keeping the immune cells alive and boosting their protective function.”
Sensing they might have accidentally uncovered a means of fighting bacterial “superbugs,” Miller and his colleagues conducted their latest study to confirm the unexpected finding was not a fluke.
The results were encouraging.
“A single oral dose of Q-VD-OPH decreased the size of MRSA skin lesions and rapidly cleared the bacteria compared with vehicle-treated [given the carrier solution without Q-VD-OPH] and untreated mice,” says study lead author Martin Alphonse, Ph.D., a dermatology postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “And surprisingly, the treatment worked whether IL-1β was present or not—and without administering any antibiotics.”