We may be able to enlist the help of viruses to fight antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, according to Israeli scientists.
They believe there is potential to use the viruses in hand sanitisers and on surfaces in hospitals, where the build up of bacteria can cause fatal diseases. (see Microbial gangs are organised killers).
The researchers at Tel Aviv University developed two kinds of bacteria-killing viruses known as bacteriophages – against E. coli.
One kind killed E. coli outright, but the other kind injected the bacteria with DNA disrupted the antibiotic-resistance genes in the bacteria, making them sensitive to drugs that they might otherwise have developed a resistance against.
“We managed to construct a system that restores antibiotic sensitivity to drug-resistant bacteria,” said study co-author, molecular biologist Udi Qimron.
While the research is promising, it does have its limitations. Most of the bacteriophages infect just one species of bacteria, and some are even limited to a few strains within a species. But the scientists are hopeful they can develop mutant strains with a wider target range of strains and species.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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