CRISPR genome-editing methods against superbugs
Waikel, Rebekah L. Department of Biological Sciences, Eastern Kentucky University, Richmond, Kentucky.
- Adaptive immune system in humans and microbes
- CRISPR-Cas adaptive immune system
- Antimicrobial CRISPR-Cas system
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
Superbugs—bacterial strains that are resistant to several types of antibiotics—have become an increasingly serious health concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States reports that at least 2 million Americans become ill with antibiotic-resistant infections annually, with more than 23,000 of these cases resulting in death. Resistance results from the overuse and misuse of antibiotics and from the ability of the infecting bacteria to acquire resistance genes, typically through horizontal transfer (the passing of genetic material from one organism to another organism, either related or unrelated, through nonreproductive mechanisms). One of the most well known and most common superbugs is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The CDC estimates an incidence of 80,000 aggressive cases of MRSA per year, with 11,000 of those resulting in death. The emergence of bacterial resistance to methicillin and other beta-lactam antibiotics has prompted the use of carbapenems, which are typically used only as a last-resort drug. It is not surprising that the bacterial family of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) is now one of the greatest threats to human health, with mortality rates approaching 50% according to the CDC. The increases in cases of MRSA and CRE have prompted the need to find alternative antimicrobial approaches. One promising antimicrobial tool is the use of CRISPR-Cas (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and associated proteins) genome editing to either kill resistant bacteria or eradicate antibiotic resistance and virulence genes.
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