BIOFILMS are a problem in medicine.
When bacteria gang up to form the continuous sheets that bear this name they are far harder to kill with antibiotics than when they just float around as individual cells. Biofilms on devices such as implants are thus difficult to shift, and those growing on the surfaces of human organs are frequently lethal. But Matthew Chang, a biochemical engineer at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, has worked out a new way to attack them. His weapon is a different type of bacterium, which he has genetically engineered into a finely honed anti-biofilm missile.
The starting point for this new piece of biotechnology is a common gut bacterium called Escherichia coli. Though this species is best known to the wider world for causing food poisoning, most strains of it are benign, and it is one of the workhorses of genetics.
The story began in 2011 when Dr Chang worked out how to program E. coli to release destructive antimicrobial peptides when they came into contact with another bacterium,Pseudomonas aeruginosa.
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