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The Evolution Arms Race:
Antibiotic and Insecticide Resistance,
Are We Losing the Battle?

by Stephen R. Palumbi, Harvard University
Society for the Study of Evolution
Evolution Symposium
NABT Convention, Montreal, 7 November 2001

Abstract of article in Science (7 Sep 2001, vol.293:1786-1790):
Humans as the World's Greatest Evolutionary Force
by Stephen R. Palumbi

In addition to altering global ecology, technology and human population growth also
affect evolutionary trajectories, dramatically accelerating evolutionary change in
other species, especially in commercially important, pest, and disease organisms. Such
changes are apparent in antibiotic and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) resis-
tance to drugs, plant and insect resistance to pesticides, rapid changes in invasive
species, life-history change in commercial fisheries, and pest adaptation to biological
engineering products. This accelerated evolution costs at least $33 billion to $50
billion a year in the United States. Slowing and controlling arms races in disease and
pest management have been successful in diverse ecological and economic systems,
illustrating how applied evolutionary principles can help reduce the impact of human-
kind on evolution.

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EDITORIAL COMMENTS ABOUT THE PRESENTATION

This article contains the details of Palumbi's many references to our ongoing battles, mainly between bacteria and antibiotics, insects and insecticides, and the role of natural selection, both as a cause of these battles, and as a possible solution to dealing with the conflicts.

Some key points made in the convention presentation:

- Global health policies which IGNORE evolution will FAIL.
Costs of dealing with staph infections in hospitals alone run $33-50 billion per year!
- Flu vaccines: predicting fastest mutating receptor sites results in the best vaccines.
- Evolution is FAST.
- We DO have an effect on evolution.
- We MUST recognize the existence and impact of evolution, especially true of:
Doctors, Farmers, Genetic Technologists, Public Health Workers, Social Workers, Teachers; ANYONE ELSE who interacts with human beings, including Lawyers, Business Leaders, Government Leaders