Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Medicinal Microbes
10 October 2012

Medicinal Microbes

Bacteria are infamous for causing disease and infection. Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhimurium (pictured) are both notorious for giving us food poisoning. However these bacteria also have therapeutic potential. Scientists have engineered novel genetic circuits in E.coli, transforming them into chemical factories. Ordinarily, popping a pill means a drug will be dispersed throughout the body via the bloodstream, reaching its destination in a diluted form. Using microbes designed to pump out chemicals exclusively at the site of infection or injury could provide a more targeted means of treatment. But the microbe itself may cause harm. E.coli has not yet proven safe enough for use, but S.typhimurium has already passed safety checks in human clinical trials, and its genes can be similarly manipulated. This bacterium grows specifically in low oxygen environments, such as the middle of tumours, making it potentially useful for targeted cancer therapy.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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