With multi-drug and pan-drug-resistant bacteria becoming increasingly common in hospitals, antibiotic resistance has threatened to return us to a pre-antibiotic era that would completely undermine modern medicine. There is an urgent need to develop new antibiotics and strategies to combat resistance that are substantially different from earlier drug discovery efforts. One such strategy that would complement current and future antibiotics would be a class of co-drugs that target the evolution of resistance and thereby extend the efficacy of specific classes of antibiotics. A critical step in the development of such strategies lies in understanding the critical evolutionary trajectories responsible for resistance and which proteins or biochemical pathways within those trajectories would be good candidates for co-drug discovery. We identify the most important steps in the evolution of resistance for a specific pathogen and antibiotic combination by evolving highly polymorphic populations of pathogens to resistance in a novel bioreactor that favors biofilm development. As the populations evolve to increasing drug concentrations, we use deep sequencing to elucidate the network of genetic changes responsible for resistance and subsequent in vitro biochemistry and often structure determination to determine how the adaptive mutations produce resistance. Importantly, the identification of the molecular steps, their frequency within the populations and their chronology within the evolutionary trajectory toward resistance is critical to assessing their relative importance. In this work, we discuss findings from the evolution of the ESKAPE pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa to the drug of last resort, colistin to illustrate the power of this approach.
Journal: The Journal of antibiotics