Scientists have invented a new way to fight bacteria like salmonella. It consists in guiding their evolution along dead-end paths.
Bacteria are living examples of evolution in action. Classical Darwin’s theory is that when life forms are subjected to environmental pressure, some of them develop new genetic mutations. Eventually, they will become the norm for the entire population.
In the world of bacteria and viruses, drugs and vaccines are environmental pressures they must overcome. And they do it with depressing ease, quickly finding ways to bypass attacks and then exploiting those genes. The end result is the constant threat of the emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
So researchers at ETH Zurich, instead of developing a drug that kills bacteria, found a way to make the bacteria safe by driving them into an evolutionary dead end.
To begin with, scientists injected mice with several different vaccines against Salmonella typhimurium (Salmonella). Biologists then observed how bacteria in the intestines of animals develop drug resistance. In the end, the scientists combined all the variants of Salmonella after the mutation and made a vaccine and changed the bacterium. She is still able to live in the body and reproduce, but not infect humans.
Scientists are confident that the new method can be used to develop vaccines against antibiotic-resistant bacteria and, possibly, even to destroy some dangerous strains in the same way as smallpox was eradicated.