A Word to the Wise appears at the Biologic Institute website. The article recounts an incident involving SMU biologist John Wise and Douglas Axe. It has the earmarks of a contrived objection to statements made by Axe about an instance of bacterial adaptation. It looks as if Axe correctly noted the specifics entailing an adaptive change conferred by a mutation. Axe also appears to argue that this specific mutation lessens the efficiency of RNA ploymerase. Consequently in the absence of the antibiotic rifampicin, reversion occurs as the mutation no longer has adaptive utility. Assuming the accuracy of the foregoing none of this seems very controversial. But Wise thought Axe's position was irresponsible. Does anyone agree with Wise? Quoting Axe:
It’s a great survival trick for the bacteria, but it does come at a cost. In other words, although it is adaptive in the presence of rifampicin, it is non-adaptive overall. Since Wise works on drug resistance proteins, I assume he is fully aware of this. I assume he would not be shocked to come across papers with titles like, “Biological cost of rifampin resistance from the perspective of Staphylococcus aureus” . I assume he knows that the mutations that confer rifampicin resistance tend to be lost after the antibiotic is removed, and I have to assume that he also knows why this is so—that the mutations impair the ability of RNA polymerase to do its job, slightly but significantly.