June 20, 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

ngg/sh/jt

News history
European black rhinos take on mission to repopulate Rwanda

By Gustavo Monge and Martin Divisek

Chilean scientists sound alarm as glaciers retreat

Santiago, Jun 19 (efe-epa).- Scientists in Chile warned Wednesday that the retreat of glaciers in the southern region of Patagonia as a result of climate...

Red Cross gives Venezuelan hospitals mosquito nets to battle malaria

Caracas, Jun 19 (efe-epa).- The Red Cross will distribute mosquito nets to hospitals in Venezuela to counter the spread of malaria, a disaster management...

Panama's San Blas archipelago being swallowed by the sea

Maria M. Mur

Thousands protest in Nepal against controversial bill

Kathmandu, June 19 (efe-epa).- Thousands of protesters gathered in the Nepal capital on Wednesday demanding the government to scrap a controversial bill to...

High levels of trust in vaccines globally, South Asia tops list

By Clea House

10 years after Spanish missionary's death, his legacy in India lives on

By Noemí Jabois

HRW: Dominican women being denied sexual, reproductive rights

Santo Domingo, Jun 18 (efe-epa).- Teenage girls in the Dominican Republic are being denied their sexual and reproductive rights, including access to safe...

Trump threatens to quickly deport millions of undocumented immigrants

Washington DC, Jun 17 (efe-epa).- The president of the United States on Monday said that immigration enforcement authorities would begin deporting millions...

United Nations, Jun 17 (EFE).- The Earth will be home to some 9.7 billion people in 2050 and 11 billion in 2100, although the population will grow at a...

Indian doctors stage strike demanding security at hospitals

New Delhi, Jun 17 (efe-epa).- Doctors across India on Monday went on strike to protest against the lack of security after a mob attacked healthcare...

G20 agrees to create international framework to reduce marine plastic waste

Tokyo, Jun 16 (efe-epa).- Energy and environment ministers of the G20 countries on Sunday agreed on the creation of an international framework that urges...

A fragile Notre Dame Cathedral holds first Mass since devastating fire

Paris, Jun 15 (efe-epa).- Two months after being devastated by fire, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris held its first Mass this Saturday in conditions still...

Notre Dame of Paris to hold first mass since devastating fire in April

By Catalina Guerrero

Congo Ebola outbreak not a global emergency, World Health Org. says

Geneva, Jun 14 (efe-epa).- The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday that the Ebola outbreak blamed for more than 1,400 deaths in the Democratic...

Surfing: Panama's therapy for kids with autism

By Rogelio Adonican Osorio

Slum Manila: A portrait of urban poverty in the Philippines

By Sara Gómez Armas

Five Myanmar nationals, Thai boat captain charged with people smuggling

Bangkok, Jun 14 (efe-epa).- Five Myanmar boat crew-members and the Thai captain of the vessel found stranded on a southern Thai island with 65 Rohingya...

Sole suspect in Christchurch mosque shooting pleads not guilty on all charges

Sydney, Australia, Jun 14 (efe-epa).- The man accused of perpetrating a terror attack against two mosques in New Zealand that killed 51 people on Friday...

Venezuelans gather at Ecuador border trying to get to Peru

By Christian A. Sanchez

Hindu devotees convene for prayers at temple in the Himalayas

Kedarnath Temple is a Hindu place of worship dedicated to Lord Shiva, one of the religion’s main deities.

Fresh outbreak of Ebola kills two in Uganda after sweeping through DR Congo

Kampala, Jun 13 (efe-epa).- A grandmother in Uganda has died on Thursday, days after her five-year-old grandson and her contracted Ebola.

Community kitchen in London whips up Michelin star meals for the homeless

By Judith Mora

Slum Manila: A portrait of urban poverty in the Philippines

By Sara Gómez Armas

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