Register for updates

 
 

Medicine & Health
RSS Feed
Programming DNA to Reverse Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria
Thursday, June 04, 2015 1:57:00 PM

TAU researcher's novel strategy may sensitize bacteria to antibiotics to selectively kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria

At its annual assembly in Geneva last week, the World Health Organization approved a radical and far-reaching plan to slow the rapid, extensive spread of antibiotic resistance around the world. The plan hopes to curb the rise caused by an unchecked use of antibiotics and lack of new antibiotics on the market.

New Tel Aviv University research published in PNAS introduces a promising new tool: a two-pronged system to combat this dangerous situation. It nukes antibiotic resistance in selected bacteria, and renders other bacteria more sensitive to antibiotics. The research, led by Prof. Udi Qimron of the Department of Clinical Microbiology and Immunology at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, is based on bacterial viruses called phages, which transfer "edited" DNA into resistant bacteria to kill off resistant strains and make others more sensitive to antibiotics.

According to the researchers, the system, if ultimately applied to pathogens on hospital surfaces or medical personnel's hands, could turn the tide on untreatable, often lethal bacterial infections. "Since there are only a few pathogens in hospitals that cause most of the antibiotic-resistance infections, we wish to specifically design appropriate sensitization treatments for each one of them," Prof. Qimron says. "We will have to choose suitable combinations of DNA-delivering phages that would deliver the DNA into pathogens, and the suitable combination of 'killing' phages that could select the re-sensitized pathogens."

Reprogramming the system

"Antibiotic-resistant pathogens constitute an increasing threat because antibiotics are designed to select resistant pathogens over sensitive ones," Prof. Qimron says. "The injected DNA does two things: It eliminates the genes that cause resistance to antibiotics, and it confers protection against lethal phages.

"We managed to devise a way to restore antibiotic sensitivity to drug-resistant bacteria, and also prevent the transfer of genes that create that resistance among bacteria," he continues.

Earlier research by Prof. Qimron revealed that bacteria could be sensitized to certain antibiotics — and that specific chemical agents could "choose" those bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics. His strategy harnesses the CRISPR-Cas system — a bacterial DNA-reprogramming system Prof. Qimron pioneered — as a tool to expand on established principles.

According to the researchers, "selective pressure" exerted by antibiotics renders most bacteria resistant to them — hence the epidemic of lethal resistant infections in hospitals. No counter-selection pressure for sensitization of antibiotics is currently available. Prof. Qimron's strategy actually combats this pressure — selecting for the population of pathogens exhibiting antibiotic sensitivity.

"We believe that this strategy, in addition to disinfection, could significantly render infections once again treatable by antibiotics," said Prof. Qimron.

Prof. Qimron and his team are now poised to apply the CRISPR/phage system on pseudomonas aeruginosa — one of the world's most prevalent antibiotic-resistant pathogens involved in hospital-acquired infections — and to test whether bacterial sensitization works in a more complex microbial environment: the mouse cage.




Latest News

TAU Scientists Make Paralyzed Rats Walk Again

Using stem cell-based biomedical engineering to rehabilitate a severed spinal cord, TAU and Technion scientists restore control of their legs.

Byzantine Mosaic Unearthed at Ashdod-Yam in Israel

Greek inscription is earliest known use of the Georgian calendar, TAU researchers say.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy May Alleviate Symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease

Treatment has potential to correct behavioral and physical deficits associated with the disease, TAU researchers say.

Skipping Breakfast Disrupts "Clock Genes" that Regulate Body Weight and Glucose

Consuming breakfast normalizes the expression of genes that improve insulin and glucose responses all day long, TAU researchers say.

Dual Virtual Reality/Treadmill Exercises Promote Brain Plasticity in Parkinson's Patients

Therapy effective even in later stages of the disease, TAU researchers say.

AFTAU to Celebrate the Steve Tisch School of Film & Television at Annual Gala Dinner

Philanthropist and producer Steve Tisch to be honored; prominent industry leaders to serve as vice chairs.

Children's Exposure to Secondhand Smoke May Be Vastly Underestimated by Parents

Smoking parents misperceive where and when their kids are exposed to cigarette smoke, TAU researchers say.

Your Stress and Mine

TAU study assesses how we perceive other people's stress levels in the workplace.

Consumption of Nicotine in Adolescence May Lead to Increased Alcohol Intake Later in Life

Nicotine "memories" from adolescence may lead to alcoholism years later, TAU researchers say.

When You're Tired, Your Brain Cells Actually Slow Down

Sleep rhythms can disrupt normal activity in specific regions of the brain, say TAU, UCLA and UW researchers.

contentSecondary
c

© 2017 American Friends of Tel Aviv University
39 Broadway, Suite 1510 | New York, NY 10006 | 212.742.9070 | info@aftau.org
Privacy policy | Tel Aviv University