Diseases have had more influence on us than we realize. They have taken a major role in making us humans and probably determine the way we run our lives. They emerged with us from our ancestral home in Africa, to spread to the rest of the planet. History is full of the great epidemics of plague, smallpox and anthrax, with the present catastrophe of HIV that is changing the demography of the world in a similar way to its predecessors. We survived because of our genetic variation and immune system and it will be this that will save us again.
So fundamental has been the part that disease has played in the world that it has brought about change, just as much as has natural selection. Actually disease has been another force, sometimes acting with natural selection but often in opposition. It continues to have a far more profound effect on all of us than realized, selecting the course of the world just as much as the rest of nature has.
1. The Sexual Revolution
2. Out of Africa
3. Host/parasite interaction
4. Using a vector
5. The Great Plagues
6. Missionaries of death
7. The slave trade in parasites
8. Eden’s garden of South America
9. A glass of water
10. The Great War
11. Man’s best friend?
12. The animal connection
13. Not clean
14. Too clean
15. The food we eat
17. Climate change and population movements
18. Disappeared and emergent diseases
19. The future
The Author: Roger Webber is formerly of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.