April 22, 2019
Latest News

Scientists develop "genetic bomb" that targets just the bad bacteria

 A laboratory assistant examines a colony of bacteria in a culture medium at the institute for hygiene of the university in Muenster, Germany, 25 May 2011. EPA-EFE FILE/MARIUS BECKER

A laboratory assistant examines a colony of bacteria in a culture medium at the institute for hygiene of the university in Muenster, Germany, 25 May 2011. EPA-EFE FILE/MARIUS BECKER

By Noemí G. Gómez

Madrid, Apr 15 (efe-epa).- Antibiotics are the first line of defense when it comes to fighting infections, but they are not selective and so kill off bacteria indiscriminately. Now, a group of scientists has managed to develop a new kind of antibiotic that can be programmed to tackle only the bad bacteria.

This new antibiotic, whose makers have dubbed a "programmable genetic bomb," also counteracts the build up of resistance; a global problem that the World Health Organization considers will cause some 10 million deaths in 2050.

The drug, which has been tested on living things, has been outlined in Nature Biotechnology magazine by researchers from the Technical University of Madrid (UPM) and Paris' Pasteur Institute.

One of the main drawbacks of antibiotics is that they attack almost all the bacteria in the body indiscriminately, which means they also get rid of ones that are beneficial. This process has led to the creation of multi-resistant bacteria, the UPM said in a statement.

And so there is a need to conduct research into intelligent drugs, Alfonso Rodríguez-Patón, a professor at the department of artificial intelligence at the UPM who is involved in the process, told Efe.

"This research opens a new line in the design and development of custom-made antibiotics, that is, selective ones to attack only the bad bacteria and programmable because they can be designed to attack one type of bacteria or another," the researcher said.

In the same way that probiotics are being developed to regulate gut microbiota, "we have designed programmable 'sentinel bacteria' capable of detecting and killing only the dangerous bacteria without affecting the good bacteria," Rodríguez-Patón added.

And for that, the research team has created something called a "programmable genetic bomb": a protein that is toxic just to bad bacteria.

The toxin travels to the sentinel bacteria and is programmed to activate and kill off only the bad bacteria that it recognizes, whether it is virulent or resistant to antibiotics.

"We can explain it as if it were a grenade, that it's an explosive device with a ring. The grenade only goes off if you pull out the ring and our toxin only goes off if it encounters a bad or resistant bacteria," Rodríguez-Patón said.

"We have programmed sentinel bacteria to prevent the genetic bombing of neighboring bacteria," Rodríguez-Patón added of the process, called "conjugation."

Bacteria have "hairs" that work like syringes, uniting sentinel bacteria with neighboring ones and antibiotics are transmitted via these hairs.

If the "genetic bomb" gets into a bad bacteria it will detect certain molecular signals, such as virulence or resistance to antibiotics, which will activate and kill the bacteria. If the antibiotic gets into a good bacteria, it will not react.

This mechanism of selective antibiotic activation can be programed to fight different resistant bacteria thanks to a molecule called intein, for which the Pasteur Institute has requested a patent.

The effectiveness of these antibiotics has been tested on living organisms, including zebra fish and crustaceans infected with the aquatic bacterium of cholera.

"We've succeeded in having our antibiotic get rid of the virulent and antibiotic-resistant cholera in infected zebra fish and that the rest of the bacteria present in the fish have not been affected and survive," the UPM researcher said.

This is significant, according to Rodríguez-Patón, as cholera affects over one million people every year and in serious cases can lead to death.

In order for these new antibiotics to become a reality, the next step is to test them on mice, Rodríguez-Patón said, adding that although it was too soon to be sure, they could be used to treat multi-resistant bacterial infections in human beings if they pass.

The development was possible thanks to engineers, physicians and microbiologists and is part of the European project Plaswires, headed by Rodríguez-Patón. EFE-EPA


News history
Popular Uruguayan hot springs discovered while searching for oil

By Raul Martinez and Sarah Yañez-Richards

International community condemns deadly Easter Sunday blasts in Sri Lanka

Newsdesk, Apr 21 (efe-epa).- Political and religious leaders from different parts of the world on Sunday condemned the series of attacks on churches and...

At least 185 killed in Sri Lanka attack, fresh blast kills 2 more

Colombo, Apr 21 (efe-epa).- The death toll in a series of deadly blasts in three luxury hotels and three churches in Sri Lanka on Sunday has climbed to 185,...

Hundreds attend former Green Party leader's anti-coal mine rally in Australia

Sydney, Australia (efe-epa).- Around a thousand protesters took part in a rally at Parramatta Park in Sydney on Saturday as part of a countrywide campaign...

Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession

By Laura Serrano-Conde

Christians flock to Jerusalem for Good Friday

By Joan Mas Autonell

Mexican muralist chronicles the coming of the conquistadors

Veracruz, Mexico, Apr 19 (epa-efe).- Melchor Peredo Garcia has created six murals to represent the "historical and sociological phenomenon" of the arrival...

Peru's Garcia left suicide note

Lima, Apr 19 (efe-epa).- Peruvian former President Alan Garcia wrote a note before taking his own life to avoid prosecution on corruption charges, his...

Newcomer lands main role in Mexico's grandest Passion Play

Mexico City, Apr 19 (epa-efe).- On this Good Friday, for the first time in 15 years, the role of Jesus in the famed Passion Play in the Mexico City borough...

Israel marks Passover, commemorates exodus from Egypt

Jerusalem, Apr 19 (efe-epa).- Israel's Jewish community is set to mark Passover, the holiday that commemorates the departure of their ancestors from Egypt...

Algiers' young people want job prospects, a better economy

With the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika earlier in April following weeks of protests against him running for a fifth term, Algeria is...

A city in the Philippines reenacts Passion of Christ with real sweat, blood

By Sara Gómez Armas.

Everest climber Kami Rita returns to break his own world record

By Sangam Prasai.

Long lines once again in Caracas, this time for humanitarian aid

By Barbara Agelvis.

Brazilian inmates' creations to hit runway at Sao Paulo Fashion Week

Sao Paulo, Apr 18 (efe-epa).- A score of male inmates at one of Brazil's maximum-security prisons have been hard at work for months on creations set to...

Pope urges bishops to show compassion when smearing chrism

Vatican City, Apr 18 (efe-epa).- The Pope called on bishops to identify with those of faith within their communities as well as to show compassion with...

Saudi Arabia postpones hearing for women activists

Cairo, Apr 17 (efe-epa).- A Saudi Arabian court has postponed a hearing in the trial of women's rights defenders Wednesday, almost a year after they were...

Migration north of broad-winged hawks makes stopover in Colombia

By Claudia Polanco Yermanos

France launches architectural competition to replace Notre Dame spire

Paris, Apr 17 (efe-epa).-The French government has launched an international architectural competition aimed at rebuilding a spire on Paris’ iconic Notre...

Climate change activists glue themselves to London train

London, Apr 17 (efe-epa).- Climate change activists glued themselves to the top of a train in London on Wednesday in a third day of protests.

Notre Dame pledges exceed $790 million as BNP Paribas, SocGen join donor list

Paris, Apr 17 (efe-epa).- BNP Paribas and Societe Generale have joined the list of companies and business elite who together have pledged more than $790...

Teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg meets Pope Francis

Vatican City, Apr 17 (efe-epa).- Swedish teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg met Pope Francis on Wednesday during the weekly general audience in the...

Migrants crossing southern US border, turning selves in to authorities

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Apr 16 (efe-epa).- Central American migrant families are saying they made the decision to illegally cross the border into the United...

Red Cross: Electric generators in first humanitarian aid for Venezuela

Caracas, Apr 16 (efe-epa).- The Venezuelan Red Cross on Tuesday announced the entry into the country of the first shipment of humanitarian aid, including...

I agree Welcome to news4europe.eu. We use cookies to improve your online experience. Find out more.