The clinical failure of antimicrobial drugs that were previously effective in controlling infectious disease is a tragedy of increasing magnitude that gravely affects human health. This resistance by pathogens is often the endpoint of an evolutionary process that began billions of years ago in non–disease-causing microorganisms. This environmental resistome, its mobilization, and the conditions that facilitate its entry into human pathogens are at the heart of the current public health crisis in antibiotic resistance. Understanding the origins, evolution, and mechanisms of transfer of resistance elements is vital to our ability to adequately address this public health issue.
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