Disease driven human evolution?

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Gene Expression Profiles during In Vivo Human Rhinovirus Infection (also, ScienceDaily summary):

Rhinovirus infection significantly alters the expression of many genes associated with the immune response, including chemokines and antivirals. The data obtained provide insights into the host response to rhinovirus infection and identify potential novel targets for further evaluation.

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About those viruses:

Epidemiologists have established minimal population size and density thresholds for particular diseases (such as measels, mumps, rubella, smallpox, influenza, rhinovirus) to survive and spread. In small hunter-gatherer groups or even small farming villages, such diseases would have been incapable of spreading very far and woul have disappeared (Black 1975). This implies that many diseases must be recent.

There’s a reason that some of the cites for the adaptive acceleration theory use microbial models; here are lot’s of them and they breed fast. Microbiologists are fond of reminding people that on the order of 90% of the cells in your body are bacteria resident in your gut; but I wonder if the last 10,000 years might not have been a boon for a whole host of virulent less friendly microbes which “tag along” with H. sapiens.

Related: Toxoplasma gondii & human culture, Obesity germs, thrifty genes, Another Nobel for the New Germ Theory of disease and Toxoplasma gondii’s South American origins and its influence on culture.

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2 Comments

  1. Reading Laurie Garrett’s “The Coming Plague” in 1995 convinced me that infectious agents (virus, bacteria, etc.) are the driving mechanism of evolution.

  2. Of course, when we find a way to suppress the rhinoviruses the side effects may be surprising. See “Hyperpilosity” by L. Sprague de Camp.

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