Team:UC Santa Barbara


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Pathogen detection using an engineered contact-dependent inhibition system

The war on microbial pathogens is a complex issue, and will continue to be in the foreseeable future. Antibiotics target microbes once they have invaded their host, but this practice cannot continue forever due to bacteria’s ability to become resistant to the drugs administered. Here, we describe a novel use of recombinant biotechnology to generate Escherichia coli capable of both sensing and reporting the presence of pathogenic bacteria, by taking advantage of a pre-existing contact-dependent inhibition system. Coupling this contact-dependent system to gene control allows us to create a reporter bacterium that will glow on contact with pathogenic bacteria, exposing potential pathogens before they have a chance to infect their host. Dealing with post-infection situations will always be a necessity, but early detection and prevention will certainly lighten the load on an already strained scientific and medical community.​