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Viewpoint: Bacteria Evolve to Go Against the Grain

Drug gradients may give bacteria an evolutionary boost towards antibiotic resistance.

Since Alexander Fleming discovered in 1928 that a substance secreted by a mold could kill bacteria, we have become used to the ease of administering cocktails of antibiotics to fight bacterial infections. However, the use and misuse of antibiotics in human medicine and livestock farming over many decades has had the serious side effect of selecting for bacteria that survive drug attack: many bacterial strains have emerged that are resistant to antibiotics, most famously the multi-drug-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strain, the source of Staph infections, that represents a major threat to hospital patients. The pool of effective antibiotics is running out, and finding new strategies to prevent the rapid evolution of drug resistance has become a pressing challenge for global health.

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