DTRA studying synthetic biological means to combat antibiotic resistance

Researchers supported by DTRA are studying the posibility of a new administration system for bacterial therapuetics to combat anti-biotic resistant pathogens. | Courtesy of DVIDS

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Chemical and Biological Technologies department and researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are studying the potential use of synthetic biological delivery methods against pathogens, they announced Wednesday.

This research aims to provide an alternative to traditional antibiotic methods as certain pathogens develop resistance to current treatments. Their research, lead by James Collins of MIT, focuses on antimicrobial peptides (AMP) that are able to eliminate bacteria without causing secondary issues through lysis.

They state that current antibiotics utilize broad-spectrum methods that indiscriminately eliminate bacteria through breaking down the cell membrane, or lysis. This can result in harmful intercellular material into the body and helpful bacteria are not spared by most antibiotics.

According to researchers, bacterial cell death can be achieved through methods similar to bacteriophages by using phagemid particles.

In an animal model, 80 percent of subjects treated with the AMP method survived an infection of E. coli versus 27 percent among untreated animals.

The Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System reports that antibiotic resistant pathogens amount to approximately 20,000 deaths in the United States on an annual basis and these could pose a biological security risk should these pathogens be used as a biological weapon.