The research appears April 28 in the online version of the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
Under normal conditions, B cells attack and destroy bacteria invading the body. These immune responses result in the creation of memory B cells, which can quickly recognize and destroy specific bacteria if they try to invade the body again.
But when staph infections occur, this vital immune response can be corrupted.
In studies with mice, the researchers uncovered how that occurs. They found a staph protein called SpA acts like a B cell toxin. This SpA protein launches a preemptive attack on B cells by targeting a specific antigen on B cell receptors. This causes the B cells to die.
Because they're destroyed, the B cells don't get the opportunity to develop the memory B cells needed to identify and combat future staph infections.
"This mechanism may explain why staph infections are so common and why so many people get them recurrently," senior author Dr. Gregg Silverman says in a statement.
Here's where you can learn more about staph infections.