TB Old Friend, Recent Foe

TB Old Friend, Recent Foe

Adrian C. Williams and Robin I.M. Dunbar just published an interesting article titled “Big Brains, Meat, Tuberculosis, and the Nicotinamide Switches: Co-Evolutionary Relationships with Modern Repercussions?” It suggests that TB may have originally been a symbiont that provided essential nicotinamide and that nicotinaminde supplementation could reduce TB rates. See the authors’ commentary below and take a look at their paper.

Commentary by Adrian Williams and Robin Dunbar
Tuberculosis (TB) has traditionally been viewed as a major historical plague that has wreaked havoc on human populations unequally hitting resource limited countries or classes the hardest. We have, however, argued 10.4137/IJTR.S12838 that there are grounds for considering that originally TB was a beneficial symbiont rather than a pathogen. We suggested that increasing supplies of  nicotinamide, the precursor to nicotinamide-adenine dinucleotide (NAD(H)),  from meat was an important element in our evolution of big, high energy and better connected brains and that TB , as a net exporter of nicotinic acid, originally co-evolved over a million years ago as a back-up source. Later as meat variances increased and became longer-term for some TB became a major pathogen, even though as many as 90% infected are in fact asymptomatic. TB immunology is unusual in that it allows proliferation in macrophages and granulomata and is rarely eliminated.  Nicotinamide was the first anti-TB antibiotic described and its analogues, such as Isoniazid, are still in use. Using contemporary and historical data we showed that TB largely disappears as meat and nicotinamide dosage increases – almost immediately followed by an increase in auto-immune diseases compatible with modern versions of the “hygiene hypothesis”. The opposite happens when meat intake declines, in the extreme causing pellagra – that may be a model for human history and progress in reverse. 

Since we wrote, TB has been shown to have a toxin that cleaves NAD 10.1038/nsmb.3064; 10.1111/cmi.13115; 10.1074/jbc.RA118.005832 as a NAD and NADP glycohydrolase. This enzyme  depletes macrophages of NAD but releases nicotinamide on a pathway to a type of programmed cell death (necroptosis) that (unlike apoptosis) allows proliferation and dissemination of the organism. Furthermore host NAD depletion, as in pellagra, activates this pathway. Nicotinamide supplementation and NAD levels in at risk populations with poor meat intake could be a test of this evolutionary inspired hypothesis. As many other more classic pathogens use similar NAD- glycohydrolases being nicotinamide-replete could improve host resistance overall. This is of public health importance given over a million deaths per year from TB alone where vaccine programs are largely ineffectual and chemotherapeutic interventions are either unavailable or plagued with six months or more courses and non-compliance or have significant side-effects many immunologically mediated (but notably include pellagra) or fail due to the evolution of  multi-drug resistant strains.    

Postdoc position at Baylor

Postdoc position at Baylor

The Laboratory for Evolutionary Medicine (www.biologicalanthropology.org) at Baylor University is searching for a postdoctoral fellow, with a generous contract renewable for multiple years, to work with Dr. Michael Muehlenbein on a variety of projects relating to ecological immunology and One Health. The position provides a mix of laboratory (biomarker application and development), data management/analysis, and grant writing experiences. Interested candidates should contact michael_muehlenbein@baylor.edu with any questions, as well as provide a cover letter detailing qualifications and past/future research plans, a current CV, and contact information for three potential references.

The Laboratory for Evolutionary Medicine also has multiple graduate student positions, available through the Department of Biology at Baylor University. Positions are fully-funded, and the preferred candidates will have research interests (broadly) in evolutionary medicine, including various aspects of ecological immunology, behavioral endocrinology, or global/One health. Contact michael_muehlenbein@baylor.edu for more details.

Anthropology of Health position at Baylor

Anthropology of Health position at Baylor

Assistant Professor in Human Genetics

The Department of Anthropology within the College of Arts & Sciences at Baylor University is accepting applications for an assistant professor (tenure-track).  This position is open to applicants with research and teaching interests in human genetics, including molecular anthropology, genetics of modern diseases, genetic epidemiology, evolutionary/population genetics, behavioral genetics, epigenetics, the microbiome, ancient DNA, bioinformatics, and all related topics.  Preference will be given to those who use genetic methods to study human health, and who are capable of teaching laboratory-based courses to undergraduate and graduate students.  Someone with a combination of active field and laboratory research is preferred.  The candidate should possess an earned doctorate (at the time of appointment) in an appropriate field of study.

The new faculty member will join a growing department with interest in applied perspectives on the anthropology of health, broadly conceived.  Interest in contributing to a new PhD program (in the Anthropology of Health) is required, and skills appropriate for training graduates for non-academic jobs are preferred.  Faculty members are required to contribute to teaching, research, and service.  Expectations for an active research agenda include publishing and granting, as well as involving students as appropriate.

The Department of Anthropology values diversity and is especially interested in candidates who can contribute to the diversity and excellence of our academic community through research, teaching, and service.  We also accept the American Association of Physical Anthropologists’ Code of Ethics, the Society for Applied Anthropology’s Statement of Ethics and Professional Responsibilities, and the American Association of University Professors’ Sexual Harassment Policy.  We pledge to respect each other, our students, and the people, animals, and places we study.

Applications will be reviewed beginning 08/19/2019 and will be accepted until the position is filled. To ensure full consideration, complete applications must be submitted by 10/01/2019.  The following materials should be uploaded into Interfolio (https://apply.interfolio.com/66961): letter of application (explaining your qualifications, current and future research plans, and teaching experience and philosophy), current curriculum vitae, transcript of highest degree earned (or if PhD is in progress, a copy of official transcript showing completed PhD hours), and the contact information (names, email addresses, and phone numbers) for three potential references.  Finalists for this position will be required to submit official doctoral transcripts in advance of a campus visit.  Employment will be contingent upon the successful completion of a background check.

To learn more about the above position, the Department of Anthropology, the College of Arts and Sciences, and Baylor University, please visit www.baylor.edu/anthropology/ .  Please contact Dr. Michael Muehlenbein (Michael_muehlenbein@baylor.edu) with any questions.

Baylor University is a private not-for-profit university affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas.  As an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer, Baylor is committed to compliance with all applicable anti-discrimination laws, including those regarding age, race, color, sex, national origin, marital status, pregnancy status, military service, genetic information, and disability.  As a religious educational institution, Baylor is lawfully permitted to consider an applicant’s religion as a selection criterion.  Baylor encourages women, minorities, veterans, and individuals with disabilities to apply.

The Evolution of Evolutionary Medicine

The Evolution of Evolutionary Medicine

This is an open access preprint of a book chapter by Derek Painter, Julia Damerow and Manfred Laubichler that will be published in The Dynamics of Science: Computational Frontiers in History and Philosophy of Science. It follows the genesis of evolutionary medicine from combination of evolutionary biology and human health & disease to a scientific field flush with global conferences and its own journal.

Abstract: For several decades interdisciplinary research has been pushed by funding agencies, science administrators and generations of well-intentioned scientists. Interdisciplinary research is needed, so the argument, because the problems we face in medicine, environmental sciences, sociology or anthropology — the list can go on — are too complex to be mapped onto one traditional discipline. While the motivation for interdisciplinary research is clear, its actual success is less obvious. For one, we don’t quite know how to measure interdisciplinarity. We also have a difficult time distinguishing different degrees of interdisciplinarity. Do we mean actual collaborations between scholars from different disciplines or are we more interested in a combination of different conceptual and methodological approaches, perhaps even in one person’s work? And how closely are those two layers linked? Does the successful application of different approaches require collaboration between scholars with different backgrounds? How can we tell whether any interdisciplinary approach is “better” and in what ways? Traditionally these questions are addressed in the context of individual case studies, such as with breakthrough discoveries. While those narratives provide detailed insights into some localized scientific cultures, we have no way of answering questions about interdisciplinarity at a larger scale. Yet understanding across individual cases is exactly the kind of information we need if we want to retool the scientific enterprise towards greater degrees of interdisciplinarity. In this study of evolutionary medicine, we asked these questions using an evolutionary biology analogy based on a complete data set (continuously growing) of all publications in evolutionary medicine over the last four decades. By using this analogy, we are able to frame results in familiar terms and better understand the nature of interdisciplinarity and how to measure it. Evolutionary medicine is an interesting case, as it was quite intentionally created as an interdisciplinary field by Randolph M. Nesse and George C. Williams through a conceptual essay \cite{Williams1991Dawn} and a successful book \cite{Nesse1994} — these publications serve, in effect, as the founder effect for the field. Their argument was quite straight forward. Humans are the product of evolution, so are diseases. In order to better understand and treat them, medicine needs to incorporate evolutionary perspectives. Conceptually the argument was easy to follow and quite convincing. Yet the actual scientific practice is another matter, and it is difficult to assess from individual reports whether and how evolution was actually making a difference to clinical practice. Looking at the large corpus of all publications claiming to incorporate evolutionary biology into medicine can give us an answer to the question: “what difference did it make to bring evolution into medicine?” And to ask, in effect, did evolutionary medicine become a new scientific field distinguishable from other disciplines?

EMPH gets Impact Factor of 4.4

EMPH gets Impact Factor of 4.4

Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health has just received its first Impact Factor–4.4. This places the journal 10/50 in category of Evolutionary Biology and 23/185 in category of Public, Environmental & Occupational Health.

The official journal of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health, EMPH is published Open Access by Oxford University Press and edited by Charles Nunn. It was founded by Stephen Stearns.

The journal is the preeminent prefered place to publish articles on evolution, medicine, and public health. A selection of highly cited articles in the journal is here.

Submitted articles get prompt professional review. Author’s fees are dramatically discounted for ISEMPH members and options are available to ensure all accepted articles can be published. Each year the best article in the journal receives the $5000 Williams Prize.

To submit your article, see the journal website.

The State of Undergrad EvMed Education

The State of Undergrad EvMed Education

Grunspan, D. Z., Moeller, K. T., Nesse, R. M., & Brownell, S. E. (2019). The state of evolutionary medicine in undergraduate education. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2019(1), 82–92. https://doi.org/10.1093/emph/eoz012


Background and objectives

Undergraduate courses that include evolutionary medicine (EM) are increasingly available, but quantified data about such courses are lacking. In this article, we describe relevant course offerings by institution and department type, in conjunction with information on the backgrounds and experiences of associated instructors.Methodology


We searched course catalogs from 196 American universities to find courses that include EM, and sent a survey to 101 EM instructors to ask about their backgrounds and teaching experiences.

Research-focused universities (R1) were much more likely to offer at least one course that covers evolutionary applications to health and disease than universities that granted only bachelor’s or master’s degrees. A survey course on EM was offered in 56% of 116 R1 universities, but only 2% of the 80 non-R1 universities we searched. Most EM instructors have backgrounds in anthropology or biology; each instructor’s area of expertise provides clues as to how continued growth of EM may occur differently by discipline.

Conclusions and implications

Undergraduates are most likely to learn about EM in research-intensive universities from an anthropological or biological perspective. Responses from anthropology and biology instructors, including whom they share course materials with, highlight that courses may differ depending on the discipline in which they are taught.