Indiscriminate usage of antibiotics allows pathogenic bacteria to develop mechanisms that render these antibiotics ineffective. Especially in the animal sector, antibiotics are still overused. Bacteria that develop antibiotic resistance there, can spread via food or direct contact, posing a threat to human health. It is estimated that by 2050, 10 million people will die annually due to antibiotic resistant bacteria (O’Neill, 2014).

Schematic of the development of antibiotic resistance and how it can spread to humans

The goal of our project is to develop a tool that will enable farmers to test on-site if a cow suffering from a bacterial infection is infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria. Based on the output, they can adapt their antibiotics usage, resulting in a more targeted treatment.

Schematic of our project

Our project consists of three parts: a recently characterized variant of the CRISPR/Cas system (Cas13a) for fast and accurate detection; tardigrade proteins that increase the shelf-life of our device; and the coacervation method for visible read-out. Moreover, we aim to use cells as mini-factories through the use of vesicles, truly transforming bacteria in genetically engineered machines.

Our project tackles one of the biggest challenges our society faces in the coming years - we offer a durable device that contributes to the reduction of antibiotic resistance. Furthermore, our device is easily adaptable to detect any kind of DNA/RNA sequence, opening doors for the rapid diagnosis of many diseases.