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CRISPR Phages Versus Superbugs

Locus Biosciences is trying to combat so-called superbugs — bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics — by engineering the bacteriophages that naturally infect them, NPR reports.

The firm, it says, is using CRISPR to develop a mix of three phages to target particular bacterial genes, that way the treatment only targets particular bacteria.

"What we've learned how to do is reprogram that immune system to attack itself," Paul Garofolo, Locus's CEO, the NPR. "We load the viruses up with CRISPR constructs, which essentially work like little Pac-Men. They go into a target bacteria cell, and they chew up the DNA of that target. It makes them much more potent killers."

But NPR notes that though others call the approach intriguing, they also point out that little is known about bacteriophages in general.

Michael Priebe from Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center says they will be moving slowing. He has plans to start a trial later this year of 30 patients, 20 of whom will get the engineered phage mix and 10 of whom will get placebo, to see whether the approach is safe and if it has any affect on the level of E. coli in their urinary tracts.