Slowing the evolution of antimicrobial resistance is essential if we are to continue to successfully treat infectious diseases. Whether a drug-resistant mutant grows to high densities, and so sickens the patient and spreads to new hosts, is determined by the competitive interactions it has with drug-susceptible pathogens within the host. Competitive interactions thus represent a good target for resistance management strategies. Using an in vivo model of malaria infection, we show that limiting a resource that is disproportionately required by resistant parasites retards the evolution of drug resistance by intensifying competitive interactions between susceptible and resistant parasites. Resource limitation prevented resistance emergence regardless of whether resistant mutants arose de novo or were experimentally added before drug treatment. Our work provides proof of principle that chemotherapy paired with an "ecological" intervention can slow the evolution of resistance to antimicrobial drugs, even when resistant pathogens are present at high frequencies. It also suggests that a broad range of previously untapped compounds could be used for treating infectious diseases.
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