First ‘living medicine’ that treats antibiotic-resistant bacteria developed

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Researchers in Spain have created the world’s first “living drug” to treat antibiotic-resistant bacteria growing on the surfaces of medical implants.

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The team at Barcelona’s Center for Genomic Regulation and Pulmobiotics created the treatment by removing a normal bacteria’s ability to cause disease and instead remodeling it to attack harmful microbes.

The study found that injecting the medicine under the skin of mice cured the infection in 82 percent of treated animals.


Developing bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics would provide a major step forward in the development of treatments for infections on medical implants such as prosthetic joints, catheters and pacemakers, which are highly resistant to antibiotics and account for about four out of all infections. are responsible for. hospital settings.

The new treatment specifically targets biofilms, which are colonies of bacterial cells that clump together on the surface, forming impenetrable structures that prevent antibiotics or the human immune system from destroying them.

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Medical implants provide ideal growing conditions for biofilms, and biofilm-associated bacteria can be a thousand times more resistant to antibiotics than free-floating bacteria.

One of the most common species of biofilm-associated bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, does not respond to conventional antibiotics, requiring patients to have surgery to remove any infected medical implants.

Alternative treatments such as the use of antibodies or enzymes are highly toxic to normal tissues and cells and can cause unpleasant side effects.

The study’s authors set about investigating whether producing enzymes directly near the biofilms would be a safe and inexpensive way to treat the infection.

Working with Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a common species of bacteria, it was first modified so that it does not cause disease, before further tweaks it produces two different enzymes that dissolve biofilms and attack the cell walls of bacteria.

Maria Luch, study co-author and chief science officer for Pulmobiotics, said: “Our technology, based on synthetic biology and live biotherapeutics, has been designed to meet all safety and efficacy standards for application in the lungs, including respiratory diseases. Diseases are one of the first targets. Our next challenge is to address high-scale production and manufacturing, and we expect to begin clinical trials in 2023.”

Luis Serrano, director of the Center for Genomic Regulation and co-author of the study, said: “Bacteria are ideal vehicles for ‘living medicine’ because they can carry any therapeutic protein to treat the source of a disease.

“One of the great advantages of technology is that once they reach their destination, bacterial vectors offer continuous and localized production of a therapeutic molecule.

“Like any vehicle, our bacteria can be modified with different payloads that target different diseases, with potentially more applications in the future.”

The study is published in the journal Molecular Systems Biology.


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