Non-antibiotic drugs promote antibiotic resistance

Mar 19, 2018

Hiding in an intestine near you

THE widespread use of antibiotics encourages the pathogens they are directed against to become inured to their effects. That is well known. But antibiotics cause damage to non-target species as well, so these, too, tend to evolve immunity. Since most antibiotics are administered by mouth, the many bacteria that live peacefully in the human gut are particularly susceptible to such evolutionary pressures.

The medical consequences of this are ill-understood, in part because most gut bacteria are anaerobes (meaning they flourish only in the absence of oxygen) and so are difficult to culture. But Lisa Maier of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, in Heidelberg, and her colleagues have, nevertheless, grown 40 of the most common strains of them in anaerobic conditions. They have then gone on to expose those cultures to hundreds of drugs for a range of ailments, at the sorts of concentrations that might be encountered in the human intestine. Their study, published this week in...


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