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Accumulating evidence suggests that the response of bacteria to antibiotics is significantly affected by the presence of other interacting microbes. These interactions are not typically accounted for when determining pathogen sensitivity to antibiotics. In this perspective, we argue that resistance and evolutionary responses to antibiotic treatments should not be considered only a trait of an individual bacteria species but also an emergent property of the microbial community in which pathogens are embedded. We outline how interspecies interactions can affect the responses of individual species and communities to antibiotic treatment, and how these responses could affect the strength of selection, potentially changing the trajectory of resistance evolution. Finally, we identify key areas of future research which will allow for a more complete understanding of antibiotic resistance in bacterial communities. We emphasise that acknowledging the ecological context, i.e. the interactions that occur between pathogens and within communities, could help the development of more efficient and effective antibiotic treatments.
Bibliographical note© The Author(s) 2020
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