Drug combinations are widely used in clinical practice to prevent the evolution of resistance. However, little is known about the effect of tolerance, a different mode of survival, on the efficacy of drug combinations for preventing the evolution of resistance. In this work, we monitored Staphylococcus aureus strains evolving in patients under treatment. We detected the rapid emergence of tolerance mutations, followed by the emergence of resistance, despite the combination treatment. Evolution experiments on the clinical strains in vitro revealed a new way by which tolerance promotes the evolution of resistance under combination treatments. Further experiments under different antibiotic classes reveal the generality of the effect. We conclude that tolerance is an important factor to consider in designing combination treatments that prevent the evolution of resistance.
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