MIT Researchers Have Breakthrough Against Drug Resistance

This is big.

As the use of antibiotics becomes more and more common, the threat of antibiotic-resistant diseases also grows. But new research being done at MIT could be a major breakthrough in bacteria-killing medicine that won't produce drug-resistant diseases. 

The scientists are using bacteriophages, naturally occurring viruses, to kill bacteria through "different mechanisms than antibiotics" that "can target specific strains, making them an appealing option for potentially overcoming multi-drug resistance," MIT said. 

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"As we're seeing in the news more and more now, bacterial resistance is continuing to evolve and is increasingly problematic for public health," Timothy Lu, an MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering, told the school's website. "Phages represent a very different way of killing bacteria than antibiotics, which is complementary to antibiotics, rather than trying to replace them."

Shutterstock / Kateryna Kon

Biological engineers at MIT successfully programed bacteriophages to kill certain strains of E. coli, a major breakthrough that gives hope they could develop medicine to attack the bacteria. One of the E. Coli strains the researchers killed had resistant properties to naturally occurring phages from a skin infection in mice. Because finding the right bacteriophages to kill whatever bacteria you're going after can be really time-consuming, the MIT researchers are trying to engineer "scaffolds" that can be used in various strains to fight infection.

"We think phages are a good toolkit for killing and knocking down bacteria levels inside a complex ecosystem, but in a targeted way," Lu says.

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