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Bacteria defeat antibiotics they have never met before

Bacteria that resist antibiotics are a growing problem worldwide, but one we thought we could limit or even reverse by better control of the drugs. The situation may be more complicated: some bacteria that have never seen an antibiotic can evolve resistance, and even thrive on it.

Bacteria usually become resistant if they are exposed to drug levels too low to kill them off, but high enough to favour the survival of resistant mutants. Such resistance is growing and could make TB and other diseases untreatable again.

The prevailing notion was that bacteria acquire and maintain resistance genes at a cost. So by carefully controlling antibiotics, we should keep resistance from emerging by itself ā€“ and any that does emerge due to antibiotic misuse should die out as soon as the drug is withdrawn and resistance is no longer an advantage.
 
 

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