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Are Anthropogenic Pressures Increasing The Speed Of Bacterial Evolution?

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It wasn't so long ago that antibacterial products, from soaps to hand gels to wipes for your kitchen counter, became ubiquitous in our grocery stores and our daily lives. Not long afterwards, though, we started hearing reports that these products and their even more powerful cousins, antibiotic prescriptions, were actually doing more harm than good--by facilitating the evolution of bacterial resistance to antimicrobials. As it turns out, that may be just be one evolutionary side effect of exposing bacteria to strongly selective anthropogenic pressures. An even more fundamentally important one is the ability to evolve rapidly, quickly incorporating genetic changes in order to display a different phenotype--in this case, increased or more comprehensive robustness in the face of antimicrobial treatments. This means that our struggles to deal with antibiotic-resistant strains, such as the dreaded methicillin-resistant Stapholococcus aureus (MRSA), are only just the tip of the iceberg.
 
 

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