Wednesday, October 1, 2014


Antibiotic resistance is a subject of great concern because almost all antibiotics known to man are ineffective in killing a few highly dangerous pathogens because gross misuse of these drugs at every level of human activities. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics by medical industry, food industry and animal food industry in many case at sub-lethal doses give an opportunity to some microorganisms to develop adequate biological mechanism to make them ineffective or non-lethal. Added to this there is very little progress in discovering new and more powerful antibiotics during the last 3 decades as such endeavors are preposterously costly beyond the economic capacity of private industry. It is in this context that the reported development of a new tool to deal with antibiotic resistant pathogens by a group of scientists from MIT, Boston gives hope for counteracting future epidemics involving such dangerous pathogens.

"The unique approach could be used to genetically engineer bacteria in our bodies to become less dangerous.The technology might also lead to new treatments for metabolic diseases like obesity, the researchers claim. Scientists and politicians have warned that we face a return to the medical "dark ages" if action is not taken against antibiotic resistance.The human body houses ten times more bacterial cells than human ones. This community of bacteria is termed the microbiome and its importance in keeping us healthy is increasingly recognised. One of the problems with current antibiotics is "they hit not only the bad bacteria but also the good bacteria," explained Professor Timothy Lu of the Synthetic Biology Center at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the team carrying out the new research. "It allows the bad bacteria to flourish." In a series of laboratory experiments published in Nature Biotechnology, the researchers showed they could produce a molecular "conditional-lethality device" capable of highly targeted action against the "bad" bacteria in a consortium of different strains.The new antibiotic uses an RNA-guided nuclease called a "Crispr"to hunt down and chop up target genes inside bacterial cells."

How far this development will get transferred into commercial technology is an unknown factor and only time will unfold the potential of the findings. One of the advantages of this new technology is the antibiotic under the scanner is selective in attacking only the pathogenic bacteria while sparing harmless and beneficial ones that reside in human body. Considering that antibiotic resistant pathogens pose a universal threat to humanity, there is an urgent need for international agencies like WHO to support the MIT project to bring to fruition the scientific findings reported above.


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