Newswise — An emerging device that holds potential in curbing the expansion of antimicrobial resistance is demonstrating initial success by utilizing a bacterial immune system as a gene manipulation instrument.

Antimicrobial resistance poses a significant worldwide peril, causing approximately five million deaths each year due to the ineffectiveness of antibiotics in combating infections, as reported by the World Health Organization.

Bacterial resistance frequently arises when resistant genes are transferred between hosts. Plasmids, circular DNA strands capable of rapid replication and easy transmission among bacteria, play a crucial role in this process. Such gene transfer can take place within our bodies and in various environmental settings, including waterways.

The Exeter team utilized the CRISPR-Cas gene editing system, which has the ability to selectively target and cleave specific DNA sequences. They ingeniously engineered a plasmid designed to specifically target the resistance gene associated with Gentamicin, a widely used antibiotic.

In laboratory experiments published in the journal Microbiology, the recent research discovered that the engineered plasmid exhibited the ability to shield its host cell from developing resistance. Notably, the researchers observed that the plasmid successfully targeted antimicrobial resistant genes in recipient hosts, leading to a reversal of their resistance.

David Walker-Sünderhauf, the lead author from the University of Exeter, emphasized the gravity of antimicrobial resistance, stating that it has the potential to surpass COVID-19 in terms of global mortality. He stressed the pressing need for innovative approaches to impede the transmission of resistance among hosts. The early success of their technology in combating resistance across diverse bacterial strains is promising. The next phase involves conducting experiments in intricate microbial communities. The ultimate goal is to utilize this technology to mitigate the proliferation of antimicrobial resistance in environments like sewage treatment plants, known breeding grounds for resistance.

 The research is supported by GW4, the Medical Research Council, the Lister Institute, and JPI-AMR. The paper is entitled ‘Removal of AMR plasmids using a mobile, broad host-range, CRISPR-Cas9 delivery tool’, and is published in Microbiology.

Journal Link: Microbiology