Northwestern Researchers' Method May Tame Resistant Bacteria

Two researchers from Northwestern University's Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Cell Biology, Luciano A. Marraffini and Erik J. Sontheimer, report in a paper today in the journal Science that a method has been found to "counteract multiple routes of [horizontal gene transfer] and can limit the spread of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria." The method may be a solution to bacteria such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), which causes about 100,000 serious infections in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Their paper, "CRISPR Interference Limits Horizontal Gene Transfer in Staphylococci by Targeting DNA," is available via this site and already has been hailed in a brief article posted yesterday by the Chicago Tribune.

In that article, written by reporter Robert Mitchum, Sontheimer said any clinical application of the method is years away, and he "does not know whether the process would be able to fight an acute infection." But the process could prevent bacteria from developing new resistance, he said.

"We'll never have the killer drug that just ends bacterial infections; it will be an ongoing arms race," Sontheimer said in the Tribune's article. "But if we can extend the useful life of antibiotics that are already out there, that will be one more arrow in our quiver in this fight against infectious disease."

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