Friday, October 3, 2014

Technological Advancement Represents Turning Point in the Fight Against Drug-Resistant Bacteria.

News Brief by Jessica Newfield

Superbugs consist of strains of bacteria that resist all known kinds of antibiotics. The most common and fatal of these superbugs are drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis and staphylococcus. Engineers of MIT working with Timothy Lu developed a genome-editing system, CRISPR, a technology that is a huge step in contributing to creating antibiotics that are effective against drug-resistant bacteria. The CRISPR system works by disabling any targeted gene and killing selective bacteria or harmful genes that are resistant to antibiotics. The CRISPR technology is comprised of engineered bacteria that carry CRISPR genes that can then be injected into the resistant bacteria to kill targeted bacteria. CRISPR technology will hopefully be applied to treat infections or remove unwanted harmful bacteria.

Lu and his team also developed CombiGEM, which can search from genetic combinations that make bacteria more vulnerable to antibiotics. They created a system of 34,000 pairs of bacterial genes, each containing a six-base-pair barcode for each gene. This technology can then identify genes without sequencing the whole DNA strand, which increases the speed of DNA sequencing immensely. The identified gene pairs were treated with different antibiotics and Lu and his team identified gene combinations that enhanced the killing of bacteria. This discovery is a platform for understanding how these gene pairs affect antibiotic resistance, which can then contribute to developing new treatments for antibiotic resistant bacteria.


Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Battling superbugs: Two new technologies could enable novel strategies for combating drug-resistant bacteria." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2014. <>.
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