Friday 14 March 2014

Antibiotic ‘smart bomb’ hits out at pathogens

Microbiologists have developed an antibiotic "smart bomb" that can identify specific strains of bacteria and sever their DNA, eliminating the infection. This could help to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
There are two problems with antibiotics. First, many bacteria are developing resistance (to the degree that this has become an issue of international concern). Second, they kill indiscriminately, eliminating good and bad bacteria. By killing beneficial bacteria, antibiotics can be harmful by disrupting the digestive system and other workings of the body.
To overcome this, a science group has developed a new compound that can target pathogens while leaving "good" bacteria untouched. The new approach works by taking advantage of a part of an immune system present in many bacteria called the CRISPR-Cas system (a short version of Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats). The CRISPR-Cas system protects bacteria from invaders such as viruses.
The drug developed by the scientists is able to target the CRISPR-Cas system in specific bacteria. The drug then proceeds to cut the bacterial DNA into pieces, thereby killing the bacterium. The compound can be developed to target specific pathogens like Salmonella.
The study was carried out at North Carolina State University and the findings have been published in the journal mBio. The paper is titled “Programmable Removal of Bacterial Strains by Use of Genome-Targeting CRISPR-Cas Systems.”

Posted by Tim Sandle

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