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October 27, 2017 6:58 pm

UNBC Students Take on Super Bug

Thursday, February 9, 2017 @ 1:47 PM

UNBC students from last year’s Synthetic Biology Club – photo submitted

Prince George, B.C. – UNBC’s Synthetic Biology Club is recruiting fellow students in their quest to combat the super bug.

Known scientifically as the MRSA bacteria strain, the super bug is a big problem in hospitals across North America and is resistant to the strongest antibiotics.

“And so, that kind of spurred our interest and we were thinking of ways to use synthetic biology to try and treat these things,” says club co-president Brendan Reiter. “So, we’re trying to come up with a new way to use the same process that they used to become resistant to antibiotics and actually kill them.”

To help reach their goal he says they are enlisting the help of UNBC students currently studying math, physics, biology, biochemistry or business to brainstorm, do cutting-edge research and fundraise so the club can return to the 2017 iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition in Boston next fall.

“You get to be in a room full of the brightest minds in synthetic biology in the world. It’s both humbling and exciting.”

Reiter was on last year’s team which attempted to build a genetically engineered system using an e-coli strain to remove copper from water so that it is safe to drink.

Those interested in taking part in this year’s study can email Reiter at reiterb@unbc.ca or his colleague Keanna Woidak at woidak@unbc.ca.


What a coincidence. I recently read about some other work in this vein:

This kind of research is great, but other approaches should also be pursued. By far the easiest would be to ban the use of antibiotics in farm animals other than for the treatment of infections.

Besides billposer’s suggestion, stop inappropriate use of antibiotics for human infections. A virus does not need an antibiotic, but bacterial infections do. Also, when taking antibiotics, take the whole prescription, not just until you feel better.

    I agree with HAS – the thing is, it is a lot harder to stop inappropriate use of antibiotics for humans. Patients put a lot of pressure on their doctors to give them antibiotics even when in all probability the patient has a virus. Unless patients can be persuaded about the long term danger of getting antibiotics for viral infections, the only way to cut back would be to regulate doctors’ use of antibiotics as strictly as narcotics.

Copper and silver have been known to have antimicrobial properties. Installing copper faucets and other fixtures, and switch plates in hospitals could potentially save lives.

    I understand that trials of copper alloy antimicrobial surface coatings in intensive care units have produced large reductions in transmission of infections.

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