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Bacteria have evolved unique mechanisms that allow them survive in the presence of strong selection pressures. Included in these mechanisms is the ability to share genetic determinants among and between species of bacteria thus spreading metal or antibiotic resistance traits quickly. The textile industry in response to demand has developed antimicrobial fabrics by the addition of bactericidal compounds during production. Some of these antimicrobials include metal nanoparticles, quaternary ammonia compounds, and broad spectrum compounds like triclosan. Bacteria have already expressed resistance to each of these bactericides. Here we discuss the evolutionary and ecological consequences of antimicrobial textiles in terms of co-selection. We predict that continued use of such materials could result in increased and widespread resistance to specific antimicrobials, especially metals, with an increased resistance to antibiotics. Such increases have the potential to find their way into other bacterial populations of human pathogens leading to serious and unintended public health consequences.
KeywordsAntimicrobial textiles Resistance Nanoparticles Evolutionary arms race Heavy metals
Preparation of this chapter was partially supported by the US Department of Energy under Award Number DE-FC09-07SR225056 to the University of Georgia Research Foundation.
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