The increasing threat of pathogen resistance to antibiotics requires the development of novel antimicrobial strategies. Here we present a proof of concept for a genetic strategy that aims to sensitize bacteria to antibiotics and selectively kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria. We use temperate phages to deliver a functional clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-CRISPR-associated (Cas) system into the genome of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The delivered CRISPR-Cas system destroys both antibiotic resistance-conferring plasmids and genetically modified lytic phages. This linkage between antibiotic sensitization and protection from lytic phages is a key feature of the strategy. It allows programming of lytic phages to kill only antibiotic-resistant bacteria while protecting antibiotic-sensitized bacteria. Phages designed according to this strategy may be used on hospital surfaces and hand sanitizers to facilitate replacement of antibiotic-resistant pathogens with sensitive ones.
Keywords: CRISPR-Cas; ex vivo treatment; lysogenization; positive selection.