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A new theory of how low doses of antibioitics create antibiotic resistance

Exposure to low levels of antibiotics increases mutations in E. coli and Staphylococcus bacteria hundreds of time more than normal, making the creation of drug-resistance strains more likely, says a paper in today's edition of the journal Molecular Cell.

This finding adds to concerns about antibiotic resistance brought on by poor prescriptions practices among doctors, patients who don't take all their medicine and even low doses of antibiotics given to help animals grow faster.

The researchers found that while low levels of antibiotics may not be enough to kill off the bacteria, they still stress them. That stress causes them to produce free radicals, says James Collins, a biomedical engineer at Boston University and one of the paper's authors.
 
 

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