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Staph bacteria are choosy about their iron source

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8:05pm, September 11, 2004

Some people prefer to get their iron from spinach rather than from steak. Staphylococcus aureus, the bacterium that causes staph infections, also has a favored iron source, a new study reveals.

This bacterium needs iron for several life-sustaining processes, such as copying DNA or generating energy. Some animals take advantage of this requirement when they're infected with the microbe and limit the free iron in their blood and tissue, a response known as nutritional immunity. Even so, resourceful staph bacteria often snag iron from either of two alternate sources: heme, the ring-shaped portion of oxygen-carrying proteins such as hemoglobin, or a blood serum protein called transferrin.

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