An article by C.L. Nunn, S.C. Alberts, C.R. McClain, S.R. Meshnick, T.J. Vision, B.M. Wiegmann, & A.G. Rodrigo in BioScience 65(8): 748-749, 2015. doi:10.1093/biosci/biv086
This article highlights the importance of initiatives such as the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine (TriCEM) and The International Society for Evolution, Medicine & Public Health and the National Science Foundation– supported National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in stimulating research and providing education and outreach in the field of evolutionary medicine.
Ecological and evolutionary perspectives are essential for understanding human health. Consider, for example, the Ebola virus, which is thought to erupt from bat populations through contact among humans, bats, and other wildlife. In the ongoing outbreak in West Africa, the index case was a 2-year-old boy who may have played in and around a tree that was home to a colony of bats (Saéz et al. 2015). Thus, interactions between humans and wildlife in a highly disturbed ecological habitat probably served as the spark that ignited this epidemic that has killed more than 20,000 people (Baize et al. 2014). Every transmission of the Ebola virus to a new host represents an opportunity for natural selection and therefore for evolution of the virus. Some strains have longer chains of transmission, with more mutations, enabling viruses to discover more fit phenotypes. Phylogenetic analyses revealed the great extent of evolutionary change that occurred early in this latest epidemic, with 73 nonsynonymous substitutions among 78 infected individuals