New 'suicide bacteria' to combat superbug

PHOTO: New 'suicide bacteria' to combat superbug

[Above: The bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa results in a white spot on the cornea.]

Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have engineered "suicide bacteria" to fight against the superbug Pseudomonas aeruginosa - a highly resistant bacteria strain that causes infections in the eyes, ears and urinary tract.

The breakthrough discovery is a step forward in advancing the treatment of infections, and could be potentially effective for those with weak immune systems, like the elderly and even cancer patients.

Speaking at a press conference at NTU yesterday, lead researcher Matthew Chang said that the "suicide bacteria" effectively kill 99 per cent of the superbug.

Assistant Professor Chang said the "suicide bacteria" generate "killing molecules" when the superbug is detected. The bacteria will then self-destruct, releasing the molecules that destroy the superbug.

In the future, the modified bacteria could possibly be a more effective treatment than antibiotic drugs, which tend to kill both good and bad bacteria in the body. The engineered "suicide bacteria" target only harmful bacteria, said Dr Chang.

He added: "The frequent use of antibiotics helps pathogens, or bad bacteria, develop a resistant mechanism. We should minimise the use of synthetic antibiotic drugs."

The team hopes the engineered bacteria can be used as a preventive measure against infections of all kinds.

Researchers worldwide have been trying to use genetically modified bacteria to combat diseases like Aids and cancer.

The NTU researchers say that the bacteria could be incorporated into drinks or pills for people to consume for health benefits.

Dr Chang said: "In this way, the engineered bacteria will be present (in the body) before the pathogen enters the human gut. As soon as the pathogen enters, it gets killed by the bacteria." The bacteria need to be tested on animals and humans.

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