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Ecological and Evolutionary Responses to Climate Change (July 2017): Pathogens

By Diane P. Genereux and David A. Lovejoy


Interactions among microbial pathogens, the vectors that transmit them, and the humans they infect have long been of interest to evolutionary biologists. Infectious agents, especially those that cause death or otherwise reduce fertility, can impose selective pressure on their hosts, leading, for example, to the well-known geographic relationship between malaria-transmitting mosquitos and the sickle-cell trait, which is associated with reduced risk of malaria infection. In turn, humans impose selective pressures on pathogens, through both immune-mediated selective pressures and use of pharmaceutical agents. For a recent, broad review of these interactions, see Robert’s L. Perlman’s Evolution and Medicine. Climate change will therefore interact with historical evolutionary processes by enabling vectors and associated pathogens to invade areas inhabited by populations that do not have high frequency of resistance alleles. In their extensive exploration of the public health implications of climate change, Global Climate Change and Human Health: From Science to Practice, editors George Luber and Jay Lemery provide a broad but well-referenced introduction and set of case studies.

Works Cited