A virus is being used to target the DNA repair system of superbugs in order to leave them defenceless against antibiotics.
Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the US, created special “bacteriophages” to attack the bug’s “Achilles heel”.
A study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that when used alongside antibiotics, the virus destroys bacterial defences and prevents resistence from developing.
Lead researcher Dr Timothy Lu said: “There are a lot of targets to go after, but people haven’t been able to find the drugs. It’s much easier to modify phages than to invent a new drug.”
In research with mice, those animals treated with both antibiotics and the engineered viruses had an 80% survival rate.
This compared with a 50% survival rate for mice treated with natural bacteriophages and antibiotics, and just 20% for those treated only with antibiotics.
Dr Lu said: “This work lays the groundwork for the development of a library of bacteriophages, each designed to attack different bacterial targets.”
Experts believe that the research could be used to combat disease-causing bacteria in food processing plants, hospitals or other settings in which they may accumulate.
Copyright Press Association 2009