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A lecture on Darwinian medicine—evolutionary perspective on why we get sick presented at Loyola University New Orleans

Loyola press release - October 18, 1999

(New Orleans)—Nationally renown evolutionary biologist, Dr. Paul Ewald, will deliver a lecture titled "What’s Catching: The Startling Scope of Infectious Diseases and Their Evolutionary Solutions" on Monday, October 25, at 7:30 p.m. in Nunemaker Auditorium on Loyola’s main campus, 6363 St. Charles Ave. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Ewald, a professor of biology at Amherst College, has helped pioneer the emerging field of evolutionary germ theory, also known as Darwinian Medicine. Darwinian Medicine approaches human diseases from an evolutionary perspective, reasoning that application of evolutionary processes to the biology of pathogens and our body’s response to their assaults lead to new perspectives on why we get sick.

His book, Evolution of Infectious Disease, describes findings from the field of evolutionary biology that yield dramatic insights for health scientists, especially those in the fight against infectious disease. In detailing why the pathogens that cause malaria, smallpox, mad cow disease, tuberculosis, and AIDS have their special kinds of deadliness, the book shows how efforts to control virtually all diseases would benefit from a more thorough application of evolutionary principles. The union of health science with evolutionary biology offers an entirely new dimension to policy making as the possibility of determining the future course of many diseases becomes a reality.

Ewald is particularly interested in and skilled at communicating science to the general public and has written numerous articles for Natural History, Scientific American, and Atlantic Monthly. His research interests are extremely broad, extending beyond the evolution of infectious diseases to the co-evolution of hummingbirds and the flowers they visit. His ecological studies of hummingbirds have revealed how both birds and flowers have adapted to each other over their evolutionary history.

Ewald was named the first George E. Burch Fellow of Theoretic Medicine and Affiliated Sciences by the Smithsonian Institution and hosted by the Smithsonian tropical Research Institute. He has received numerous research and education grants to support his work.

Ewald will deliver a second lecture titled "Evolution and Control Virulence and Antibiotic Resistence: Backdoor Alternatives to Frontal Assaults," at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 26, in Monroe Library Room 157. This free lecture is given as part of the Department of Biological Sciences Faculty Research Seminar Series.