Programming bacteria to detect disease

Bacteria have a bad reputation and are often seen as enemies causing many diseases such as tuberculosis and cholera. However, bacteria can also be our allies as evidenced by the exploding work on our bacterial flora or microbiota, which plays a major role in our body functions. Since the advent of biotechnology, researchers have engineered bacteria to produce therapeutic molecules. The team of Jerome Bonnet at the CBS (Inserm/CNRS/University of Montpellier), together with teams from CNRS, the Montpellier University Hospital and from Stanford University went further and transformed bacteria in "micro-spies" able to detect and report the presence of biomarkers of disease in urine or blood. These bacteria are able to detect the abnormal presence of glucose in the urine of diabetic patients. This work marks the first step towards the use of programmable cells for medical diagnosis.


New publication: "Detection of pathological biomarkers in human clinical samples via amplifying genetic switches and logic gates"
Authors: Alexis Courbet, Drew Endy, Eric Renard, Franck Molina et Jérôme Bonnet
Journal: Science Translational Medicine, 2015 May 27;7(289):289ra83.
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