by Dom Galeon
An innovative study in the University of
Wisconsin-Madison could soon put an end to
drug-resistant bacteria by using an edible
version of CRISPR.
probiotic could target specific bacteria, making
it more effective than antibiotics.
Targeted and Edible
continues to grow, scientists are desperately trying to figure
out how to best fight bacterium like Clostridium difficile,
which can cause fatal infections in hospitals and nursing homes.
C. difficile has
been ranked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
a top drug-resistant threat responsible for
about 15,000 deaths per year.
Several means are
being explored to counter the pandemic, the most recent coming from
a project funded by the National Institute of Health.
The proposed solution
uses CRISPR, the world's most precise and
efficient gene editing technology currently available.
Pijkeren, a food scientist from the University of
Wisconsin-Madison, is creating a probiotic cocktail that patients
can swallow as a liquid or pill.
The cocktail of bacteria will include a
bacteriophage - a virus that
infects bacteria - capable of carrying a customized, false, CRISPR
message to C. difficile.
This message would
cause C. difficile to make lethal cuts to its own DNA.
Better Than Antibiotics
Currently, this probiotic is still in its early stages, according to
van Pijkeren, and is yet to be tested on animals. Luckily, similar
studies have proven the effectiveness of bacteriophage-delivered
CRISPR in killing bacteria.
However, researchers still have some
How CRISPR Works:
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of antibiotics is they are a sledgehammer that depletes and
destroys the gut microbial community," van Pijkeren
said to the
University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"You want to
instead use a scalpel in order to specifically eradicate the
microbe of interest."
CRISPR is ideal for
this use because such drugs would be very specific to the user.
They could kill a
single species of germ while leaving good bacterial untouched. In
contract, regular antibiotics kill off both good and bad bacteria,
leading to resistance.
successful, CRISPR could become, not just the world's most effective
gene editing tool, but also the best bacteria-killing technology
While this is a
long way off, it still gives hope to thousands.
"As long as we
house patients together in a hospital or in a nursing home and
we give a lot of them antibiotics we're going to have a problem
with C. difficile,"
says Herbert DuPont, director of the Center
for Infectious Diseases at the University of Texas to MIT