Adaptations that enable antimicrobial resistance often pose a fitness cost to the microorganism. Resistant pathogens must therefore overcome such fitness decreases to persist within their hosts. Here we demonstrate that the reduced fitness associated with one resistance-conferring mutation can be offset by community interactions with microorganisms harboring alternative mutations or via interactions with the human microbiota. Mutations that confer antibiotic resistance in the human pathogen Staphylococcus aureus led to decreased fitness, whereas coculture or coinfection of two distinct mutants resulted in collective recovery of fitness comparable to that of wild-type. Such fitness enhancements result from the exchange of metabolites between distinct mutants, leading to enhanced growth, virulence factor production, and pathogenicity. Interspecies fitness enhancements were also identified, as members of the human microbiota can promote growth of antibiotic-resistant S. aureus. Thus, inter- and intraspecies community interactions offset fitness costs and enable S. aureus to develop antibiotic resistance without loss of virulence.
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