Some strains of nasty bacterial infections, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), come loaded with resistance to antibiotics built right into their genes. But certain infections seem to acquire an ability to persist in the face of drugs that should knock them out—without developing the genetic hallmarks of antibiotic resistance. For decades, researchers have thought this holdout occurred because many antibiotics target cell growth, so even though most of the bacteria were killed by the drug, a select group simply shut down, going into a sort of hibernation, thereby allowing the infection to persist. In other words: if the bacteria aren’t growing, they’re also not dying.
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