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CRISPR It Up

CRISPR, which is best known as a gene-editing tool, could also be used as an antibiotic, the New York Times reports.

In bacteria where CRISPR was found, it acted as a sort of immune system that chopped up infecting viruses, it adds, and researchers from the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry in Canada reported earlier this month in Nature Communications that they could push Cas9 to target Salmonella and that in a co-culture of Salmonella and Escherichia coli, their CRISPR-Cas9 system only targeted and killed Salmonella.

"CRISPR is the next step in antimicrobial therapy," author David Edgell from Western University tells the Times.

North Carolina State University's Rodolphe Barrangou, who was not involved in the work, tells the Times that this study was a "great proof of concept" and Cameron Myhrvold, a postdoctoral researcher at the Broad Institute, notes that even if the infecting microbes were to evolve, "we can simply change the CRISPR system."

Barrangou, who also co-founded a CRISPR-based antimicrobial company notes, though, that it is early days. "We're not ready for clinical prime time yet," he tells the Times. "But we're getting there."