Infectious disease is a common cause of death worldwide, but the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains and lack of effective antiviral treatments means a potential future risk of increased mortality and global economic burden due to untreatable infections. This article discusses how CRISPR-Cas gene-editing technology is helping in the fight against increasingly resistant bacterial infections and rapidly mutating viruses—from facilitating a better understand of host-pathogen interactions and improving diagnosis, to potentially providing a new way to treat infectious disease.
- CRISPR is a gene-editing tool that has been repurposed from an endogenous bacterial immune system that protects from foreign genetic material
- Scientists can now use CRISPR to perform targeted and precise gene editing, with applications ranging from the improvement of agricultural crops, whole genome screening for drug discovery, as well as genome engineering for the treatment of human inherited disease
- CRISPR has also been utilized to discover new antimicrobial drug targets, understand the cellular mechanisms that cause disease, and identify whether antimicrobial resistance genes are present in a patient sample
- The revolutionary gene-editing technology may also provide a means to administer targeted therapy for specific bacterial and viral infections that can overcome the growing issue of antimicrobial resistance