"We were mimicking what is going on in the doctor's clinic, putting selection pressure on the enzyme by giving higher doses of antibiotic," said Alejandro Vila, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute international research scholar.
Vila and his colleagues at the University of Rosario's Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology in Argentina and at the Biotechnology Institute of the National Autonomous University of Mexico encouraged the development of resistant bacteria by subjecting succeeding generations to ever higher doses of antibiotics.
They discovered that in a few days they could produce bacteria that could thrive on levels of antibiotics 64 times those that would kill unevolved bacteria.
The team focused on an enzyme that is causing increasing problems with drug-resistance around the world. Vila said that by understanding the process of how bacteria develop resistance, researchers should be able to develop drugs that can survive the next wave of resistance better.