CRISPR Pill Could Replace Antibiotics
Resistance to antibiotics is something that keeps growing, and researchers are working every day to fight these difficult germs. One way to do that is a “CRISPR pill” that instructs harmful bacteria to self-destruct, MIT Technology Review reports.
Clostridium difficile is currently the bacterium that that tops the list of urgent drug-resistant threats in the US. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that this germ caused 15,000 deaths in 2015, in addition to nearly half a million infections.
As you may already know, CRISPR was first discovered in bacteria. Ironically, bacteria store memories of viral DNA in their own genomes as CRISPRs (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). It’s this memory, and the DNA-slicing enzyme Cas that they use to chop up the genes of invading bacteriophage.
The idea of the Van Pjikeren Laboratory is to use bacteriophage to send a false message to the Clostridium difficile, to instead cause the bacteria to make lethal cuts to its own DNA. To do this, the lab is developing bacteriophage that carries a customised CRISPR message, by adding them to a cocktail of probiotic, or innocuous bacteria that a person could swallow as – for instance, a pill.
A few companies have already started to attempt developing CRISPR based antibiotics commercially, including Locus Biosciences, a spinout from North Carolina State University.
The probiotic is still in early stages of development, and hasn’t yet been tested in animals. It will be exciting to see how this will develop in the near future and what kind of antibacterial resistance may evolve in this ongoing arms race.