When Antibiotics Fail, CRISPR Can Help

Updated March 4, 2019

Antibiotics have proven to be a saving grace for well over a century. They help battle diseases, eliminating infections before they have a chance to do real damage. However, since they're so widely prescribed now and fed to animals as well as humans, bacteria have begun to evolve and develop resistance to them.

This evolution is so far along, that Wired has reported some pharmaceutical companies have even begun to shut down their antibiotic production. Without these life-saving medications, what do we do?

Enter Locus Biosciences

Understanding genetics is a powerful thing, even more so when the makeup of pathogens can be used against them. This is what Locus Biosciences aims to do with CRISPR, a set of molecular tools used by scientists to manipulate genetic material. It helps researchers isolate and cut problematic coding in the genes, much like you would do for computer software to reprogram or remove functions.

Instead of using medications to battle these bacteria and viruses, Crispr aims to make it possible to use to biology to defeat them in the body once and for all. It works first by isolating the genes that pathogens need to function.

Then systems are created that target those genes. A phage is then loaded with the Crispr enzyme Cas3 and given to the patient. The idea is that the phage only targets the bacteria or virus, eradicating it without affecting any other parts of the body.

Where antibiotics can cause side effects, the way Crispr works is to simply remove only the targeted parts. Additionally, there would be no chance for the pathogen to develop a resistance, since it's being destroyed from the inside out, biologically.

Long Haul Before Success

Like any new medications, procedures or assistive devices, Locus Biosciences has a long way to go before this solution hits the market or even becomes mainstream. The first stage is to undergo human trials to prove the effectiveness of the enzyme.

It could take several years for Crispr-based medications to be available to the public, which means further action is required now.

What is CRISPR?

The main problem is that antibiotics are overprescribed. When this happens, it encourages bacteria to evolve just to survive. If doctors dial back on the prescriptions, they could prove to be effective for many years, hopefully until this Crispr treatment is approved and ready.

Read more about CRISPR in our guide here.

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