• Question: Could Genetic Engineering Result in the Production of a Dangerous “Superbug”

    Asked by ExploitNow to Remsha, Oliver on 14 Nov 2018.
    • Photo: Remsha Afzal

      Remsha Afzal answered on 14 Nov 2018:

      Hehe Well if a scientist wanted to use the power of genetic engineering for evil and not good, then yeah it could result in the production of a superbug. ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. 😛 Interesting you mentioned genetic engineering and super bugs though because scientists in MIT are actually working to use genetic engineering to make the present super bugs not so super! 😀 They can use gene editing techniques like CRISPR/Cas to remove the genes responsible for making those bugs super resistant to antibiotics 🙂

    • Photo: Oliver

      Oliver answered on 15 Nov 2018: last edited 15 Nov 2018 1:23 am

      Excellent question! For a little more on how CRISPR is being used to find ways to attack antibiotic resistant bacteria, this is an excellent video (only short): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWzQf2xzJek

      This is hugely important because there is a growing problem of these bacteria being resistant to more and more existing antibiotics (partly due to overuse in healthcare and in agriculture) and no new class of antibiotic has been developed for 30 years. It could, it is feared, bring us back to the ‘Dark Ages’: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-45942574

      As with all technologies, they can be used for bad as well as good. CRISPR is much easier and cheaper to use than previous versions of gene editing/engineering and so more people will be able to attempt to use it for a variety of purpose. Moreover, it might not be deliberate misuse but unintended consequences. For instance, there is work on ‘gene drives’ which are the ability to increase the chances (drive changes) of particular traits being inherited. The focus is on reducing mosquitos that can cause malaria in humans. There is concern that it could be misused or its development and use could give rise to unintended bad consequences – by letting loose genetic modified changes that can be inherited but which may cause significant harm over generations. For more on this: https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/5/31/17344406/crispr-mosquito-malaria-gene-drive-editing-target-africa-regulation-gmo