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Evol Med Public Health. 2014 Jan;2014(1):65-8. doi: 10.1093/emph/eou010. Epub 2014 Mar 12.

The evolution of bacterial social life: From the ivory tower to the front lines of public health.

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  • 1National Cancer Institute, Division of Cancer Prevention, Biometry Research Group, 9609 Medical Center Drive, MSC 9789 Room 5E634, Rockville, MD 20892 and Santa Fe Institute, 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA.


Drug-resistant bacteria are a huge and growing threat to public health. A solution exists in theory, but had not yet been put to a practical test. The accompanying paper by Ross-Gillespie et al., the theory is put to a test and performs successfully. As predicted, using a drug that targets bacteria's shared secreted 'public goods' molecules instead of cell components did not drive the bacterial evolution of drug resistance, and therefore retained its effectiveness. This result holds great promise for better drugs and vaccines against many infectious diseases, and also for better cancer therapies.


cancer therapy; disease evolution; drug resistance; microbial cooperation; microbial public goods

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