Biotech Updates

Modified Bacteria Can Potentially Cure Hard-to-Treat Lung Infections

February 1, 2023

Mycoplasma pneumoniae, one of the smallest known species of bacteria, was modified by scientists to re-purpose it into attacking Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a type of bacteria that commonly infects critically-ill patients who require machine ventilators to breathe. This is a promising strategy to address the leading case of mortality in hospitals, according to one of the co-corresponding authors of the study.

P. aeruginosa is naturally resistant to many types of antibiotics, making it hard to treat. It lives in communities that form biofilms that can attach to different surfaces of the bodies to form structures that cannot be reached by antibiotics. This is evident in patients on machine ventilators who experience ventilator-associated pneumonia.

This led the scientists to modify M. pneumoniae and attack P. aeruginosa instead. The modified M. pneumoniae dissolves the biofilms by producing different molecules, including a toxin that can kill or inhibit the growth of P. aeruginosa. Initial tests found that the M. pneumoniae treatment could dissolve the biofilms. Efficacy testing was also found to reduce lung infections and double the survival rate when compared to not using any treatment. The scientists also noted that administering a single, high dose did not show signs of toxicity in the lungs. Upon completion of the treatment course, it was found that the immune system was able to clear the modified bacteria in just four days.

The team of scientists conducting the study led by the Centre for Genomic Regulation in Spain is designing the treatment to be administered through a nebulizer. Further tests will be carried out before the study reaches its clinical trial phase.

More details can be found in Nature Biotechnology and the Centre for Genome Regulation.

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