Experts Redesign Common Microbe to Fight Drug-Resistant Bacteria



E. coli bacteria is seen in an image taken by an electron microscope. REUTERS/USDA/Handout


Researchers in Singapore have re-engineered a harmless strain of bacteria to fight another common, drug-resistant microbe that spreads in hospitals and is deadly to patients with weak 1) ___ systems. To fight the Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacterium, the scientists used a strain of the E.coli bacteria that is normally present in the human 2) ___. They inserted into E.coli foreign 3) ___ fragments that empowered it to sense the offending pathogen and quickly produce and release a deadly toxin. “Once it (re-engineered E.coli) detects the presence of the aeruginosa, it produces a 4) ___ and the killing molecule will be released to kill the pathogen,” said assistant professor Chueh Loo Poh, a member of the research team at the Nanyang Technological University’s School of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering.


“Our engineered 5) ___ inhibited the growth of the (pathogen) by 90%,” said lead author of the paper, assistant professor Matthew Wook Chang. The team published their findings in the journal Molecular Systems Biology on Tuesday. While many 6) ___ unleash a blanket attack on both good and bad bacteria, the re-engineered E.coli targets specific invaders, in this case, the P. aeruginosa. The same formula can be used to redesign other 7) ___ to fight other infective agents, such as the Vibrio cholerae which causes cholera, said Chang. “We can easily change the sensing 8) ___,” he said.


Apart from offering possible new therapies, the team believes re-engineered bacteria can be made into probiotics and consumed in food such as yoghurt. 9) ___ are live bacteria that are beneficial to their hosts. The team is now testing its re-engineered E.coli on animals and hope to carry out clinical 10) ___ in people infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa later.


ANSWERS: 1) immune; 2) gut; 3) DNA; 4) toxin; 5) bacteria; 6) antibiotics; 7) microbes; 8) device; 9) Probiotics; 10) trials


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