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Bacterial evolution during human infection: adapt and live or adapt and die

This conversation was led by Daria Van Tyne (Assistant Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine) and Matt Culyba, (Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine).

Microbes are constantly evolving. Laboratory studies of bacterial evolution increase our understanding of evolutionary dynamics, identify adaptive changes, and answer important questions that impact human health. During bacterial infections in humans, however, the evolutionary parameters acting on infecting populations are likely to be much more complex than those that can be tested in the laboratory. Nonetheless, human infections can be thought of as naturally occurring in vivo bacterial evolution experiments, which can teach us about antibiotic resistance, pathogenesis, and transmission. We will present and discuss two possible outcomes for de novo adaptive mutations that occur during bacterial infection, which we have termed “adapt-and-live” and “adapt-and-die.” We will also present examples of adapt-and-die mutations that we have explored within our own work focused on the evolution of multi drug-resistant Gram-positive bacteria sampled from human infections.

image of Daria Van Tyne and Matt Culyba next to the Club EvMed logo

Resources discussed:

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