The Farming Pathogens blog was created February 2009 in support of a newly published book.
Farming Human Pathogens: Ecological Resilience and Evolutionary Process (Springer, 2009) applies information theory to the evolution and emergence of human pathogens. Specifically, within an information formalism the authors describe how punctuated shifts in mesoscale ecosystems can entrain patterns of gene expression and pathogen evolution.
The development is applied to several infectious diseases that have evolved in response to the world as humans have made it. Many pathogens emerging from underneath epidemiological control are ‘farmed’ in the metaphorical sense, as the evolution of drug resistant HIV makes clear, but some, like avian influenza, emerge quite literally as the result of new practices in industrial farming. In that context, effective disease control necessarily involves broad economic and social reform for reasons embedded in the very basics of pathogen evolution.
The blog here addresses ideas introduced in the book, but also extends out into discussions of the social and evolutionary dynamics of disease as new pathogens emerge or old ones reemerge. It also focuses on the context of the science used to characterize pathogens.