More and more research has emerged about the influence of the microbiome and gut health, not only on digestion but also on mental health and even chronic illness. In an effort to mobilize the microbiome to treat a wide array of diseases, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have successfully edited the genome of bacteria in the gut for the first time in mice.
The researchers used the CRISPR gene-editing system to use bacteria-hunting viruses to manipulate the ratio of different bacterial species in the gut. Although probiotics and fecal transfers can be used to rectify bacteria balance in the gut in extreme situations, these are not always effective, so genetic altering of the microbiome could be a viable solution.
In tests with mice, the researchers used a bacteriophage called M13, which was introduced orally, to successfully kill off dangerous E. coli strains while leaving the beneficial ones intact.
“The dream is that you could just choose which specific strains in your gut – or even just individual genes – you want to promote or take out,” said study author Peter Turnbaugh. “We’re really excited about how far we were able to push this in E. coli. Hopefully, it will lead to similar tools for other members of the gut microbiota.”