'Programmable' antibiotic to attack drug-resistant microbes

6 October 2014

A study, published in Nature Biotechnology, has provided a new solution for antibiotics by using enzymes to target and attack microbes that have become drug resistant. 

Researchers at the Rockefeller University describe a 'programmable' antibiotic technique that can selectively target bad bugs, particularly those harboring antibiotic resistance genes, while leaving other, more innocent microbes alone.

Traditional antibiotics purge everything at once, regardless of the consequences, when microbes in the body fail.

"In experiments, we succeeded in instructing a bacterial enzyme, known as Cas9, to target a particular DNA sequence and cut it up," said lead researcher Luciano Marraffini, head of the Laboratory of Bacteriology. 

This selective approach leaves the healthy microbial community intact, and the research suggests that this will enable the body to control resistance in check and therefore prevent some secondary infections, eliminating two serious hazards associated with treatment by classical antibiotics, according to the team.

For example, the new method can reduce the risk of C. diff, a severe infection of the colon, caused by the Clostridium difficile bacterium, that is associated with prolonged courses of harsh antibiotics.

Posted by Jeanette Royston​

 

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