Smart antibiotics select their targets

Smart antibiotics select their targets

October 6, 2014

Rockefeller University researchers are working on a smarter antibiotic. As published yesterday in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the team describes a technique to program antibiotics to selectively target the bad guys, particularly those harboring antibiotic resistance genes, while leaving innocent microbes unkilled.

“In the experiments, we were successful in instructing a bacterial enzyme, known as Cas9, to target a particular DNA sequence and cut it,” says Luciano Marraffini, head of the UK bacteriology laboratory and principal investigator. “This selective approach leaves the healthy microbial community intact, and our experiments suggest that doing so can keep resistance under control and prevent certain types of secondary infections, eliminating two serious risks associated with classical antibiotic treatment.” .

The new approach could, for example, reduce the risk of C. diff, a serious infection of the colon caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile, which is associated with prolonged use of antibiotics and is a growing public health concern.

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