Could gene editing breakthrough curb the spread of antimicrobial resistance?

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Amidst the rising spread of antimicrobial resistance, hope emerges in the form of a ground-breaking tool. Progress in gene editing holds the potential to curb the relentless march of antimicrobial resistance

By ingeniously leveraging the power of a bacterial immune system as a gene editing tool, this revolutionary approach has displayed promising early results.

With its ability to target and combat the spread of antimicrobial resistance at its core, this remarkable tool offers a glimmer of optimism in the ongoing battle against the spread of drug-resistant pathogens.

The World Health Organization highlights the severity of antimicrobial resistance as a significant worldwide danger, with approximately five million deaths occurring each year due to the ineffectiveness of antibiotics in combating infections.

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Cutting-edge breakthrough: CRISPR-Cas system tackles antibiotic resistance gene with precision

Recent research has revealed that the fundamental driver of bacterial resistance development is the exchange of resistant genes between hosts.

Plasmids, circular DNA strands that quickly travel across bacteria, are essential for aiding this transfer. In fact our bodies are not the only place this phenomena occurs; it also happens in other environments, such as water streams.

The Exeter team stated that they had successfully used the CRISPR-Cas system, a gene editing tool that can target particular DNA sequences and destroy them when they are detected. An antibiotic called Gentamicin has a resistance gene, therefore the researchers created a plasmid that can selectively target this gene.

Tackling the spread of antimicrobial resistance through plasmid research

The latest research, which was written up in Microbiology, discovered that in lab tests, the plasmid prevented its host cell from acquiring resistance. The plasmid efficiently targeted antimicrobial-resistant genes in the hosts to which it transferred, reversing their resistance, according to researchers.

The Medical Research Council, GW4, Lister Institute, and JPI-AMR all provided funding for the study. The title of the study is ‘Removal of AMR plasmids using a mobile, broad host-range, CRISPR-Cas9 delivery tool’, and is published in Microbiology.’

Lead author David Walker-Sünderhauf, of the University of Exeter, commented on the exciting news:

“Antimicrobial resistance threatens to outstrip Covid in terms of the number of global deaths. We urgently need new ways to stop resistance spreading between hosts. Our technology is showing early promise to eliminate resistance in a wide range of different bacteria.

Our next step is to conduct experiments in more complex microbial communities. We hope one day it could be a way to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance in environments such as sewage treatment plants, which we know are breeding grounds for resistance.”


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