Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 30988505
Nat Biotechnol. 2019 Jul;37(7):755-760. doi: 10.1038/s41587-019-0105-3. Epub 2019 Apr 15.
Targeted killing of pathogenic bacteria without harming beneficial members of host microbiota holds promise as a strategy to cure disease and limit both antimicrobial-related dysbiosis and development of antimicrobial resistance. We engineer toxins that are split by inteins and deliver them by conjugation into a mixed population of bacteria. Our toxin-intein antimicrobial is only activated in bacteria that harbor specific transcription factors. We apply our antimicrobial to specifically target and kill antibiotic-resistant Vibrio cholerae present in mixed populations. We find that 100% of antibiotic-resistant V. cholerae receiving the plasmid are killed. Escape mutants were extremely rare (10-6-10-8). We show that conjugation and specific killing of targeted bacteria occurs in the microbiota of zebrafish and crustacean larvae, which are natural hosts for Vibrio spp. Toxins split with inteins could form the basis of precision antimicrobials to target pathogens that are antibiotic resistant.