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Brooks Daniel R. | Fellow Visitor
2021-11-17 - 2021-11-27 | Research area: Sustainability Research
The Evolutionary Biology of Emerging Infectious Diseases

Emerging Infectious Diseases in humans, livestock and crops currently cost the world 1 trillion dollars a year in production losses and treatment costs, more than the GDP of all but 15 countries. Evolutionary analysis of this crisis, based on the newly-formulated Stockholm Paradigm, links the potential for emerging infectious disease outbreaks directly to climate change. Highly specialized pathogens evolve in localized settings in association with one or a few hosts. Climate change and ecological disruption alters geographic distributions, bringing those pathogens into contact with susceptible but previously unexposed hosts. This has been true throughout the history of life on this planet. Human activities during the past 15,000 years, including domestication and agriculture, population growth, conflict and migration, urbanization and globalization have all increased the risk. Technological humanity now faces an existential crisis in global climate change and emerging infectious disease. We have run out of time and we are largely unprepared. But we can change that. The very evolutionary specializations that make pathogens a threat for widespread emergence also provide insights into how we can find them before they find us. The DAMA (document – assess – monitor – act) protocol links activities from neighborhood gardens to global surveillance systems that can allow us to anticipate to mitigate emerging diseases. We can lower costs to society, limiting the global impact of pathogens and slowing the expanding and accelerating crisis, while buying time for traditional efforts to medicate, vaccinate and eradicate.