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Basel researchers showcase innovation to tackle bacteria resistances

Researchers at the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering of ETH Zurich in Basel have developed a new method designed to tackle antibiotic resistances. This method, which facilitates personalized treatment of infections, is to be presented at a scientific competition in Boston, MA.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) is taking part in the Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, held between October 31 and November 4, 2019, in Boston, MA. Representatives of the ETH Department of Biosystems and Engineering (D-BSSE), which is actually based in Basel, will be showcasing the new method to tackle antibiotic resistances on November 2, as outlined in a press release.

D-BSSE researchers developed their method as part of the “T007-License to lyse” project, for which they also shot a video. This project is based on the use of bacteriophages, also known simply as phages. These viruses represent the “natural enemy of bacteria”, as explained in the video. They attach to the bacteria and inject their DNA. To treat infections, phages are therefore used in targeted fashion in the hope they are able to attach to specific pathogens. This ability is determined by the proteins of the phages, while the process is known as lysogeny. However, so far only a handful of phages are known that can be used to tackle resistant bacteria in this way. Now, however, the Basel researchers intend to change this with their innovation.

To this end they are creating various versions of the necessary binding proteins by way of a genome editing process, thereby expanding the application potential of the phages, as outlined in a description of the new method. For this, they have developed a system in which the genetic information of phage can be randomized, thereby creating a fundamentally extensive phage library and their binding proteins. A bioreactor developed by the Basel researchers themselves serves to theoretically enable the best-possible variants from this library to be selected. The overview of candidates to combat bacteria produced by this should then form the basis of personalized treatment methods.

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