Chaos-inducing genetic approach stymies antibiotic-resistant superbugs

phys.org | 9/3/2018 | Staff
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A genetic disruption strategy developed by University of Colorado Boulder researchers effectively stymies the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as E. coli, giving scientists a crucial leg up in the ongoing battle against deadly superbugs.

These multidrug-resistant pathogens—which adapt to current antibiotics faster than new ones can be created—infect nearly 2 million people and cause at least 23,000 deaths annually in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

Effort - Solution - CU - Boulder - Researchers

In an effort to develop a sustainable long-term solution, CU Boulder researchers created the Controlled Hindrance of Adaptation of OrganismS (CHAOS) approach, which uses CRISPR DNA editing techniques to modify multiple gene expressions within the bacteria cells, stunting the pathogen's central processes and thwarting its ability to evolve defenses.

"We now have a way to cut off the evolutionary pathways of some of the nastiest bugs and potentially prevent future bugs from emerging at all," said Peter Otoupal, lead author of the study and a doctoral researcher in CU Boulder's Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CHBE).

CHAOS - Research - Culmination - Work - Otoupal

The CHAOS research is the culmination of work that began in 2013, when Otoupal and his colleagues began searching for genes that could act as a cellular kill switch for E. coli. When the scientists tweaked one gene at a time, the bacteria could adapt and survive. But when they altered two or more genes at once, the cell got weaker.

"We saw that when we tweaked multiple gene expressions at the same time—even genes that would seemingly help the bacteria survive—the bacteria's fitness dropped dramatically," Otoupal said.

CHAOS - Method - Advantage - Effect - Levers

The CHAOS method takes advantage of this effect, pulling multiple genetic levers in order to build up stress...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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