Down With Resistance
Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem facing humanity. Bacterial infections, once treatable with a simple dose of antibiotics, now sicken and even kill patients. And today’s physicians are left with little recourse. Often times, there is nothing they can do.
Without new tools to combat drug-resistant microbes, such infections could kill as many as 10 million people by 2050, some experts predict. In September 2016, the United Nations formally acknowledged antibiotic resistance as a global issue; then-UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon called antibiotic resistance a “fundamental, long-term threat to human health.”
In response, governments have ratcheted up funding for methods of battling antibiotic resistance, including new drugs and research into the microbiome. Shortly after the September meeting, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States announced that it had awarded more than $14 million to fund new approaches to combat antibiotic resistance.
Researchers have begun to consider synthetic biology as a new way to combat harmful bacteria. By creating their own microbes, researchers could provide targeted solutions to deadly bacteria, which traditional antibiotics increasingly cannot deliver.
French startup Eligo Bioscience is creating genetically engineered “biological nanobots” to combat antibiotic resistance. The nanobots are made of synthesized DNA and protein that allow them to specifically target resistant bacteria.
Even though antibiotics are usually deployed because a particular type of bacteria is causing problems, most wipe out all bacteria — even the good kinds that make up a person’s microbiome (the community of microbes living in and on a person’s body). Without good bacteria to keep the bad bacteria in check, patients become vulnerable to a number of health issues, such as intestinal infections caused by Clostridium difficile or ulcers from an excess of Helicobacter pylori bacteria.
Eligo’s approach gets rid of only the disease-causing bacteria, targeting their DNA with sniper-like precision, Xavier Duportet, Eligo’s CEO, told Futurism. A patient would ingest the nanobots. The nanobots would be inactive until they made their way to the gut, where they would use the CRISPR gene editing enzyme to scan bacterial DNA and identify their target. Once the nanobots found disease-causing bacteria, they would destroy them…