Killing Bacteria by Silencing Genes May Be Alternative To Antibiotics

The human body is one huge kingdom full of both helpful and destructive bacteria. And can only work effectively with a maintained level of bacteria. However, when infections strike and antibiotics are prescribed the drugs end up killing both the disease-causing and the useful bacteria –which in consequence causes C.difficile, a hospital-contracted bacterial infection to thrive.

Also known as C.diff. the infection attacks the colon, a condition that has recently been treated by fecal microbiota transplantation that ideally involves introducing another man’s poop into the colon to supply the missing useful bacteria (killed by antibiotics).

Taking the Bacteria Specific Treatment Approach

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The new direction is that researchers are now refocusing to silence the genes of the unwanted bacteria to kill them without touching the useful bacteria. As a result, they have developed a new therapy they call antisense, powered by three new antibiotics to help achieve the same.

Antisense enables the drugs to spot C.difficile and act on it, unlike other conventional antibiotics which kill multiple other bacteria in the event of treating the condition.

“At least we now can zero-in to target the specific bacteria we intent, leaving the rest healthy as they should be, in this new approach,” said Arun Sharma, Penn State College of Medicine. Also a professor of pharmacology, Sharma clarified that the team is working to further refine the drugs to attain a higher mark.

The Drugs in Details

By design, the drugs are said to be organism specific. They can literary target a single type of bacteria which in other words makes them ‘smart pills.’ David Steward a co-principle investigator in the study says,” The drug is precise, and as such, they are highly effective on C.difficile infection. Reason being, this bacterial is highly selective and takes advantage quickly to dominate the human gut in instances of ecological disturbances.”

Under normal functioning, the healthy bacteria effectively takes care of C. difficile to ensure it remains at un-harmful levels, what scientist called a healthy microbiome. In simple words, when healthy, the microbiome takes full charge to ensure all bacteria remains under control.

But once an antibiotic is introduced into the gut, even if it was meant to act on another condition the normal pills can’t control the fate of other bacteria, which ends up hurting even the good ones, causing an explosion of C.dfficile in the colon. That’s what Sharma and his team want to avert.

The Broader Look and What this Might Mean to Drug Research in the Future

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This work opens the window for drug researchers to focus on the possibilities of organism-specific medication for all other conditions as well.

Looking at the conventional treatment we are used to, it means C. difficile takes the advantage to thrive when the microbiome ecology gets shaken by common antibiotics, which at times leads to serious gastrointestinal symptoms. This means there is a possibility that antibiotics meant heal other parts of the body end up killing helpful microorganisms that take residence within that region of our bodies. Something that could be averted if an organismal specific medication was an option to go by.

The new antisense antibiotics comprise a genetic composition that is able to target exact C. difficile bacteria, thereby silencing a specific gene on them. “The genetic material we deliver through the new drugs go and wraps around the target bacteria, hindering its gene expressiveness causing the C.diff to die.

However, as interesting as it sounds, it’s still too early to be excited about the whole concept. But, we can be sure that if this is anything to look upon, it definitely will wipe the embarrassment of poop donation meant to assist C. diff. patients. “The drugs will be tested on other animals after refinement before adoption to full human clinical use,” explained Sharma and colleagues.