CRISPR-based antimicrobials: gene- and pathogen-focused applications

In recent years, researchers have discovered the potential of CRISPR as an antimicrobial. In this blog post we explain the recent advances made in this field and the different approaches by which CRISPR can be used as a new weapon in the battle against antimicrobial resistance.

Why we need alternatives to antibiotics

Bacterial pathogens can readily become resistant to antibiotics by acquiring antimicrobial resistance (AMR) genes. These are transferred between bacteria through a process called horizontal gene transfer, which is often mediated by plasmids – pieces of circular DNA that spread between bacteria. In particular, broad host-range conjugative plasmids, which can spread between distantly-related bacteria and which often confer resistance to multiple antibiotics, are a huge player in the dissemination of AMR. In this way, AMR genes can find their way from environmental bacteria into human pathogens, and the same genes can be found in different bacterial species.

With resistance genes rapidly arising to novel classes of antibiotics and the development of new antibiotics being unprofitable [1,2], it is necessary to investigate alternatives to antibiotics to tackle antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. As we discuss below, the recent discovery of CRISPR is highly promising as a next-generation antimicrobial.

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