Researchers have developed a compound that seems to treat infections of the superbug known as MRSA, according to a new animal study.

When researchers gave the compound, called RNPA1000, to mice infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA , half of the mice survived the infection. But all the mice with MRSA that didn't receive the treatment died, said study researcher Paul Dunman, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The compound works by targeting a molecule the bacteria need to thrive, Dunman said. To adapt to antibiotics , the bacteria must constantly churn out new molecules that carry information, called RNA molecules. But the constant churn requires the bacteria to recycle their RNA once an RNA has been read, it is degraded so that it can be re-used.

The compound that Dunman and his colleagues discovered prevents the degradation process, he said.

"Most of the time, if you have a MRSA strain in the U.S., it's one of 12 particular lineages or backgrounds. This thing can inhibit them all," Dunman told MyHealthNewsDaily.

The compound could also have similar effects on other staph strains, and other infection-causing pathogens like streptococcus and enterococcus, he said.

MRSA, which is resistant to antibiotics that treat other staph infections , hospitalizes nearly 300,000 people and kills about 19,000 people a year, according to 2005 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People most commonly acquire MRSA infections during surgical procedures, or while staying in a hospital or a nursing home. Outside of health care settings, community-acquired MRSA can be spread among healthy people through skin-to-skin contact, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The new compound targets a different part of the bacteria's replication process than the part targeted by most currently used antibiotics, Dunman said.

The researchers also found they could adjust the potency of the compound by slightly tweaking its chemical makeup, which means they could make the compound potent enough to be effective in humans, but not so strong that it could be toxic and cause cell death, he said.

Dunman and his colleagues are now working to find the optimal potency of the compound so it can be tested in humans, he said.

The study was published today (Feb. 10) in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

Pass it on: Researchers have discovered a compound that stopped the spread of the superbug MRSA in mice.

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