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Low-Dose Antibiotics May Promote Drug Resistance

FRIDAY, Feb. 12 -- U.S. scientists have discovered another way that improper antibiotic use can lead to the development of dangerous multidrug-resistant bacteria.

Multidrug-resistant bacteria such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) are a common, potentially deadly problem for hospital patients. To fight these so-called superbugs, doctors and pharmaceutical companies need to understand how these bacteria develop resistance to treatment, researchers say.

It's widely believed that an incomplete course of antibiotics enable bacteria to survive and make changes that allow them to become resistant to that particular antibiotic.

However, this new study by researchers at Boston University and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute shows that low doses of an antibiotic can result in mutant strains of bacteria that are susceptible to that particular antibiotic but have cross-resistance to other antibiotics.

The study appears in the Feb. 12 issue of Molecular Cell.

These findings may prove important in terms of how antibiotics are administered to patients, said the researchers.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has more about drug resistance.

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Posted: February 2010