Jumat, 20 Maret 2009

If Not Bird Flu, Then.....What?

In Human Biology 5th ed. (pp. 540-541) we discuss the possibility that a human pandemic might be caused by the bird flu virus, H5N1, if the virus evolves to become easily transmissible between humans. But so far it hasn’t happened. Where will the next great human pandemic come from, if not from the bird flu virus? No one knows for sure, but the smart money is on pathogens living in animal species closely related to humans, such as non-human primates. In fact, that’s precisely how HIV developed – an evolving virus in monkeys jumped to chimpanzees and then to humans.

Knowing this, how might we prevent the next pandemic, or at least have some warning that it was coming? One intriguing possibility would be to keep a close eye on diseases that develop in humans who are in close contact with wild animals. To learn more, read “Preventing the Next Pandemic”, by Nathan Wolfe (Scientific American, April, 2009, pp. 76-81), and then check out the website of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative. In fact you can download a .pdf file of the Scientific American article directly from the the GVFI website.

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