Genetically manipulated viruses kill multidrug-resistant bacteria
© virusM. Dunneethz.ch | ETH Zurich
Genetically manipulated phages show great potential in controlling multi-drug resistant bacteria. In addition, unlike antibiotics, these viruses do not have side effects because they only selectively kill particular pathogens.
Zurich (Switzerland). With the increased use of antibiotics, various bacteria, including, for example, Klebsiella oxytoca, which have even been distributed in hospitals through washing machines, have developed resistance to common medicines. Although new classes of antibiotics with other mechanisms of action show great potential, they probably only have a limited timeframe for their use until pathogens also develop resistance to new active substances.
Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) have now presented in Cell Reports the new approach to treatment, which is also intended to reliably combat multidrug-resistant bacteria. For this purpose, bacteriophages are used, these are host-specific viruses that can attack and kill only one type of bacteria or even subspecies. Unlike antibiotics, whose side effects also affect the remaining bacterial flora in the human body, so there is no collateral damage.
Phage therapies are difficult to use so far
Unfortunately, medicine can hardly use this miracle weapon, since the phages needed for therapy first had to be isolated and characterized. In addition, doctors had to administer various types of phages because it was not possible to determine with certainty which of the viruses would kill the bacteria needed for the disease. All in all, this means that phage therapies have not been standardized so far, which has been costly and time consuming to use.
The virus genes have changed
Scientists at the Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH) have altered phage genes so that they can detect and kill other bacteria, so use is no longer possible against just one pathogen. As the study author explains, "using X-ray crystallography, scientists have solved the first atomic structure of a protein that binds to Listeriafagen." The researchers then use this information to develop a new receptor-binding protein.