In the fight against infectious disease, scientists have found an unlikely ally in E. coli, the bacterium infamous for making weekend barbecues and fast food meals into a serious health issue. But now, researchers at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have armed E. coli bacteria with a “seek and kill” system that targets cells of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, an invasive bacterium that causes pneumonia and other illnesses. “In preliminary tests with infected mice, the modified bacterium left a trail of dead P. aeruginosa in its wake.”
What’s the Big Idea?
While studies that document miracle medical procedures performed on mice will not necessarily benefit human populations, the researchers who modified the E. coli believe that the treatment will work effectively in humans. “Most conventional antibiotic treatments kill bacteria indiscriminately, taking out both pathogenic microbes and beneficial bacteria in the gut, for example. By contrast, [the researchers’] E. coli offers the possibility of a surgical strike.” What’s more, the E. coli could lie dormant in the gut, and activate only once its enemy makes an appearance.