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Using quantitative approaches from physics, biophysicists discovered a surprising way that bacteria can evolve resistance to antibiotics. After evolving a sleeping mechanism, the bacteria can then wake up and evolve resistance 20 times faster than normal — at which point continuing to administer antibiotics won’t kill the bacteria. The results indicate that tolerance may play a crucial role in the evolution of resistance in bacterial populations under cyclic exposures to high antibiotic concentrations.

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