The future of infectious diseases. Watch it.

Take home messages:

  • You can watch evolution in progress in quickly-reproducing organisms, like malaria
  • Over 100,000 Americans die of infections that were easily treated 30 years ago due to the evolution of resistance (twice the number of people who will die in car crashes).
  • In an arms race between us and infectious diseases, we lose.
  • We need to understand the evolutionary forces unleashed by medicine before we can manage infectious disease
  • We need to ask, “Will (this drug) STAY safe, and CONTINUE to work”, not just if it is safe and whether it will work.
  • The Lancet (a high impact medical journal) rejected an evolutionary paper addressing malaria because, “a good understanding of evolutionary biology is beyond most of our readers.”

I wonder:
How can we engage medical professionals in evolutionary research? How do we emphasize the importance of evolutionary biology to medicine and health to the public? A part of me thinks that if we can reach doctors, and have medical professionals address the impact of evolutionary processes to their patients in common clinical settings, then acceptance among the general public of evolution and its importance will follow naturally.

Andrew Read at TEDMED 2012

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