To avoid an antibiotic resistance crisis, we need to develop antibiotics at a pace that matches the rate of evolution of resistance. However, the complex functions performed by antibiotics—combining, e.g., penetration of membranes, counteraction of resistance mechanisms, and interaction with molecular targets— have proven hard to achieve with current methods for drug development, including target-based screening and rational design. Here, we argue that we can meet the evolution of resistance in the clinic with evolution of antibiotics in the laboratory. On the basis of the results of experimental evolution studies of microbes in general and antibiotic production in Actinobacteria in particular, we propose methodology for evolving antibiotics to circumvent mechanisms of resistance. This exploits the ability of evolution to find solutions to complex problems without a need for design. We review evolutionary theory critical to this approach and argue that it is feasible and has important advantages over current methods for antibiotic discovery.
- experimental evolution
- natural antimicrobial products