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How Flesh-Eating Strep Bacteria Evolved into an Epidemic

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Bacteria aren’t kind enough to leave behind a fossil record (save for cyanobacteria), but they’re evolving fast. Really fast. Their short life cycles mean that generations come rapid-fire, adapting through natural selection into the monster pathogens that are currently shrugging off our finest antibiotics. It’s all the more troubling when we’re dealing with the flesh-eating variety. A new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, details the evolution of one such bacteria, group A Streptococcus. By charting its evolution, scientists hope to gain invaluable insights into tackling subsequent generations of these menaces, and to begin to better understand the very nature of epidemics.

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