Pneumonia Drugs Helped Evolve a Superbug

A new study traced the genetic history of a strain of antibiotic resistant pneumonia-causing bacteria, and found that antibiotics and vaccines helped shape the microbe's evolution.

The researchers deciphered the complete genetic code of 240 samples of Streptococcus pneumoniae. The samples were collected between 1984 and 2008, which let the researchers see how the bacteria changed over time.

Science News reports:

"Because the strain was not killed by penicillin, it had an advantage over strains that were susceptible and quickly spread ... By the time the vaccine hit clinics, a small number of pneumonia bacteria had already swapped DNA with other bacteria and changed their sugar coats to serotype 19A ... When the vaccine was introduced, it drastically reduced the number of infections with bacteria coated in the 23F capsule, leaving the field clear for 19A infections to take over."

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