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Bacteria that make us sick are bad enough, but many of them also continually evolve in ways that help them develop resistance to common antibiotic drugs, making our medications less effective or even moot. Doctors try to reduce the evolution by cycling through various drugs over time, hoping that as resistance develops to one, the increased use of a new drug or the widespread reuse of an old drug will catch some of the bugs off guard.

The plans for cycling drugs are not that scientific, however, and don’t always work efficiently, allowing bacteria to continue to develop resistance. Now a new algorithm that deciphers how bacteria genes create resistance in the first place could greatly improve such a plan. The “time machine” software, developed by biologists and mathematicians, could help reverse resistant mutations and render the bacteria vulnerable to drugs again.

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