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Unformatted text preview: PLoS Biology | www.plosbiology.org 0137 Essay February 2007 | Volume 5 | Issue 2 | e30 T he increase in resistance of human pathogens to antimicrobial agents is one of the best-documented examples of evolution in action at the present time, and because it has direct life-and-death consequences, it provides the strongest rationale for teaching evolutionary biology as a rigorous science in high school biology curricula, universities, and medical schools. In spite of the importance of antimicrobial resistance, we show that the actual word evolution is rarely used in the papers describing this research. Instead, antimicrobial resistance is said to emerge, arise, or spread rather than evolve. Moreover, we show that the failure to use the word evolution by the scientifi c community may have a direct impact on the public perception of the importance of evolutionary biology in our everyday lives. To establish whether the word evolution is used with different frequency by evolutionary biologists versus researchers in the medical fi elds, we searched scientifi c journals published since 2000 for research papers and reviews dealing with antimicrobial resistance. To fi nd these papers, we used standard search engines and databases to identify papers with antimicrobial resistance or antibiotic resistance (or with names of specifi c antibiotics) in the titles or abstract. We deliberately did not include the word evolution in the searches, so as not to bias our fi ndings in favor of articles with this word. However, we chose for further analysis only those articles that were obviously describing the evolution of antimicrobial resistance, and excluded those that described, for example, the biochemical basis of resistance or the pharmacology of antimicrobial agents. The articles were chosen in an unbiased manner by several readers who each independently read the fi rst papers they found that met these criteria. We compared 15 articles that were primarily published in evolutionary journals (such as Evolution , Genetics , and Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B ) with 15 articles that were published in primarily medical journals (such as The Lancet , The New England Journal of Medicine , and The Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy ). (A list of the papers and articles that are the basis of the results reported here is available in Text S1.) Each reader then read the articles in their entirety. In each paper we Evolution by Any Other Name: Antibiotic Resistance and Avoidance of the E-Word Janis Antonovics * , Jessica L. Abbate, Christi Howell Baker, Douglas Daley, Michael E. Hood, Christina E. Jenkins, Louise J. Johnson, James J. Murray, Vijay Panjeti, Volker H. W. Rudolf, Dan Sloan, Joanna Vondrasek Essays articulate a specifi c perspective on a topic of broad interest to scientists....
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- Fall '07