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Drug-resistant superbug lived on hedgehogs long before we used antibiotics

An evolutionary battle between fungi and bacteria on hedgehogs’ skin gave rise to a type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria long before humans started using the antibiotics that were thought to lead to such superbugs, a new study reveals.

Researchers traced some lineages of the superbug MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, to a parasitic fungus found on the skin of European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). The fungus secretes antibiotics to fight and kill Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (also found on hedgehogs); to stay alive, the bacteria, in turn, evolved antibiotic resistance that later crossed into livestock and humans, the research team reported in a new study. 

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