Emergence of methicillin resistance predates the clinical use of antibiotics
The discovery of antibiotics more than 80 years ago has led to considerable improvements in human and animal health. Although antibiotic resistance in environmental bacteria is ancient, resistance in human pathogens is thought to be a modern phenomenon that is driven by the clinical use of antibiotics. Here we show that particular lineages of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus—a notorious human pathogen—appeared in European hedgehogs in the pre-antibiotic era. Subsequently, these lineages spread within the local hedgehog populations and between hedgehogs and secondary hosts, including livestock and humans. We also demonstrate that the hedgehog dermatophyte Trichophyton erinacei produces two β-lactam antibiotics that provide a natural selective environment in which methicillin-resistant S. aureus isolates have an advantage over susceptible isolates.
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