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CRISPR weapon spread by bacterial sex could destroy deadly superbugs

Illustration of carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter sp. bacteria

Phanie/Alamy

Bacteria armed with a CRISPR-based weapon that infects other microbes during the bacterial equivalent of sex could help us kill off dangerous antibiotic-resistant superbugs – if regulators approve their use. While the approach has huge promise, its reliance on genetically engineered bacteria is likely to be controversial.

“We would be releasing genetically modified killing machines into the environment. What could go wrong?” says David Edgell at Western University in Canada.

There are two main problems with conventional antibiotic drugs. First, they often kill beneficial bacteria along with dangerous ones and disrupt microbiomes. This …

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