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Understanding antibiotic resistance
Understanding antibiotic resistance

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3.1 Evolution and natural selection

In 1858, the British naturalists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace both independently proposed the theory of evolution through natural selection to explain how organisms change over time.

Evolution is a change over time in the inherited characteristics or traits in a population. This change is largely brought about by natural selection. This is the process by which a particular trait that confers a survival advantage for an individual becomes more frequent in the population.

Although Darwin and Wallace were unaware of the existence of DNA, we now know that natural selection is the process by which genetic mutations that increase the ability of an organism to survive are selectively passed on to subsequent generations.

Now listen to Audio 1 in which Professor Steve Jones from University College London explains Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection.

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Audio 1 Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection.
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In the next section, you will see how our use of antibiotics contributes to the evolution of resistance.