Maximizing Costs to Prevent Antibiotic Resistance Evolution
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The increasing prevalence of antibiotic resistance among bacteria continues to threaten current and future human health. One possible strategy for managing antibiotic resistant bacteria may be to prevent the evolution of antibiotic resistance in the first place. Such a strategy may rely on exploiting trade-offs. Trade-offs require bacteria to sacrifice their ability to survive in one environment in order to adapt to another. Bacteria are less likely to acquire adaptations that require a tall sacrifice or “cost” relative to adaptations with lower costs. Antibiotic resistance is associated with many trade-offs and costs. However, the magnitude of its costs can vary dramatically between bacterial populations. Understanding the factors that increase costs may help limit the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Artificial evolution experiments and preliminary undergraduate research suggest that variation in costs is influenced by three sources: environmental variation, genetic variation, and genotype-by-environment interactions. Some experimental medical treatments, like multidrug or phage therapies, may be able to manipulate these sources to prevent the evolution of antibiotic resistance. Future research objectives regarding antibiotic resistance should focus on how interactions between bacteria, genetic correlations, and genotype-by-environment interactions influence the costs of antibiotic resistance.