Scientists have discovered a bacterium living inside the human nose that produces an antibiotic capable of killing one of the most hard-to-treat pathogens — a pathogen that causes serious, even deadly skin and wound infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

German researchers found that this antibacterial substance was effective in treating skin infections in mice caused by Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, according to a study published Wednesday in Nature. The scientists said the substance, which they named lugdunin, has potent antimicrobial effects against a wide range of bacteria, including antibiotic-resistant strains such as methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus bacteria.

The number of MRSA infections is among the highest of all antibiotic-resistant threats. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 80,000 invasive MRSA infections and more than 11,000 related deaths occurred in 2011, the last year for which data is available.

The scientists said their find represents the first known example of a new class of antibiotics. That’s particularly welcome news given the urgent global problem of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and the dwindling arsenal of drugs to replace ones that no longer work.

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