Programmable mRNA antibiotics show potential to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

June 29, 2022 -- Antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains are growing worldwide, with traditional antibiotics increasingly failing. However, programmable mRNA could be the solution to the problem, according to researchers.

"If we don't want to watch antibiotic-resistant microbes to thwart the successes of modern medicine, we need novel tools that facilitate targeted treatment of pathogens," said Jörg Vogel, managing director of the Helmholtz Institute for RNA-based Infection Research and director of the Institute for Molecular Infection Biology at Julius Maximilian University.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, mRNA vaccines were quickly brought to market with the ability to teach the body's cells how to make a protein triggering an immune response. Now, scientists want to leverage RNA-based medicine for the development of a new type of antibiotic that can be used to treat bacterial infections.

A study, in the current issue of Nucleic Acids Research, showed that mRNA-based antibiotics are in principle suitable for combating uropathogenic strains of Escherichia coli. Nonetheless, several important questions still need to be addressed before using this approach in clinics.


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