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Tough germs swap DNA behind noses

Genetic exchange of antibiotic resistance occurs about 10 million times more effectively in the nose than in the blood of animals, report researchers.

Antibiotic resistance results from bacteria’s uncanny ability to morph and adapt, outwitting pharmaceuticals that are supposed to kill them. But exactly how the bacteria acquire and spread that resistance inside individuals carrying them is not well-established for most bacterial organisms.

Now, microbiologists studying bacterial colonization in mice have discovered how the very rapid and efficient spread of antibiotic resistance works in the respiratory pathogen, Streptococcus pneumoniae (also known as the pneumococcus).

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