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Drug Resist Updat. 2012 Jun;15(3):162-72. doi: 10.1016/j.drup.2012.03.005. Epub 2012 Apr 18.

Evolution of antibiotic resistance at non-lethal drug concentrations.

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Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Box 582, SE-75123 Uppsala, Sweden.


Human use of antimicrobials in the clinic, community and agricultural systems has driven selection for resistance in bacteria. Resistance can be selected at antibiotic concentrations that are either lethal or non-lethal, and here we argue that selection and enrichment for antibiotic resistant bacteria is often a consequence of weak, non-lethal selective pressures - caused by low levels of antibiotics - that operates on small differences in relative bacterial fitness. Such conditions may occur during antibiotic therapy or in anthropogenically drug-polluted natural environments. Non-lethal selection increases rates of mutant appearance and promotes enrichment of highly fit mutants and stable mutators.

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