Moore Foundation grantees at Georgia Institute of Technology are investigating how cholera bacteria battle over sustenance and turf to gain insights that could, someday, lead to new, targeted therapies to fight infections.

Brian Hammer, an associate professor at Georgia Tech’s School of Biological Sciences, says specially engineered assassin bacteria friendly to humans could kill harmful bacteria while sparing hordes of microbes that keep people healthy.

Hammer and his colleagues applied existing physical models used to precisely describe the interactions of atoms and molecules to understand the behavior of cholera bacteria.

These calculations could predict how two cholera armies would separate from each other into phases, like oil and water, when they met on the battlefield.

Such a technique would be helpful in separating "good" bacteria from "bad" ones that cause infection, unlike today's antibiotics that eliminate harmful and helpful bacteria alike.

"If you could target harmful bacteria in the human gut, you could use engineered bacteria as a living antibiotic," said Hammer, while cautioning, however, “We’re not anywhere near that right now."

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