Archive for HIV

Poultry of Minerva

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza, Organic agriculture, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2015 by rgwallace

Last week I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Peter Shea, the Bill Moyers of the Twin Cities, for The Bat of Minerva show.

What began as a kind of intellectual portraiture, in which we explored how I got studying the evolution of infectious disease, spiraled into about as broad a thesis on the nature of disease and agriculture and prospects for a just future as I have compiled in one place to date.

The reason–and there is a reason–we talked in such a noisy place is revealed halfway through the interview.

For those night owls out there–or nocturnal bats or poultry off their counter-seasonal photoperiods–the show will be broadcasted locally Sunday midnight (Saturday night) on Metro Cable Network/Channel 6

Neoliberal Ebola?

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza, Revolution, Sustainable farming with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 23, 2014 by rgwallace

Ebola2With an update about David Quammen’s response at the bottom.

In spite of writing a long book on diseases spilling over from animals to humans, well-regarded author David Quammen can’t seem to get his mind wrapped around the possibility Ebola has likely evolved a new ecotype, for the first time spreading into a major urban area.

The first outbreak of Flaviviridae Filoviridae Ebola in West Africa apparently began in forest villages across four districts in southeastern Guinea as early as December 2013 before spreading to Conakry and the outskirts of Monrovia, the capitals of Guinea and Liberia respectively.

The number of deaths across West Africa presently stands at 149 killed out of 242 infected. According to the WHO, with a three-week incubation period cases are likely to continue to accumulate for months.

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Beware the Blob

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Revolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2012 by rgwallace

Gay Aids Protest Shame on ObamaFor World AIDS Day 2012 I post an edited excerpt of a speech I gave a decade ago to the Second Scholarly Conference on Women and Work: Health and Wellness held at the Center for Worker Education in New York City. I ask whether HIV can search for the most vulnerable populations.

Identifying trends in health and disease doesn’t mean we know how these patterns came about.

Why, for instance, is HIV/AIDS so prevalent in Africa? It’s where the virus first emerged, of course. Cases have had more time there to accumulate. But at 22 million HIV cases, initial conditions are hardly explanation enough. An array of interacting socioeconomic circumstances and cultural happenstance locks millions of people to precarious fates (and, in this case, greater risk of infection). Many of Africa’s countries are the poorest in the world and the workaday people live in are channeled in such a way that the term ‘choice’, at the heart of much public health commentary, loses its connotation of free will.

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The Axis of Viral

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2010 by rgwallace

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

We might accept that viruses and bacteria at best instantiate the coincidental nature of such an alliance. The success of one bug might pave the way for another. But we’d be hard pressed to imagine that pathogens would whittle the syllogism to a sharper point and actively pursue our sorry asses in tandem or even in triplicate.

Karposi’s sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV or human herpesvirus 8 ) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) appear to engage in just such a collaboration.

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King Leopold’s Pandemic

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2010 by rgwallace

The origins of HIV offer a great example of the ways treating human impact as an afterthought—discussed in our previous post—locks the study of pathogens into limited and oftentimes downright drunken trajectories.

In 2006 Beatrice Hahn and her colleagues identified the likely source for the SIVcpz progenitor that seeded HIV-1 group M, the clade that produced the AIDS pandemic. The team identified two wild chimpanzee groups in the southeastern corner of Cameroon—50 km north of Ouesso—with SIVcpz phylogenetically closest to group M.

The team hypothesized the virus spread to humans there a hundred years or so ago before making its way south by the Sangha and Congo Rivers to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), one of several new colonial administrative centers in the area. By a relaxed molecular clock permitting different rates of nucleotide substitution across phylogenetic branches, Worobey et al. (2008) dated the emergence of group M to 1908 (1884-1924). After circulating regionally for decades, diversifying into many of its present-day subtypes, the virus exploded in population size and made its way out onto the global travel network and to the rest of the world.

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Do Pathogens Time Travel?

Posted in Evolution, HIV, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2010 by rgwallace

Evolution arises out of grave failure. Natural selection requires large and variable populations comprised for the most part of organisms whose designs fail to match their present circumstances. Any design matched right is in the meantime still subject to chance destruction occurring across spatiotemporal scales.

So strict engineering optimization is embodied in no organismal design, contra religiosos and radical adaptationists alike. Nor does it reside in the process of selection: every species eventually dies out–by maladaptation, stochastic extirpation, or an external force (say, a large meteorite in yo’ face).

And yet biological life began early on Earth and continues on four billion years later, and will do so in one form or another after the present climate collapses or we nuke ourselves senseless.

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A Critical Moment in Influenza’s History

Posted in Ecological resilience, Evolution, HIV, Influenza with tags , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2009 by rgwallace

Featherless ChickensI gave the following presentation last night at Give & Take, a show and tell for adults held at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis. The organizers ask all presenters (and audience members) two questions: What do you know about? What do you want to know about? A lot of fun and a great learning experience. Other than the photo of the featherless chickens I show none of my slides here, but I think you’ll get the picture.

We begin with a visceral abomination. We recoil at the sight of these chickens bred for baldness. But we recoil for reasons other than those for flinching at mystery meats, for instance. We’re repulsed by the meat because we can’t connect our food to something identifiably organic.

Our featherless friends, on the other hand, seem a violation of temporality. We don’t expect the finished broiler—leg, breast, wings—to be walking about on its own. The sequence is all wrong.

You can imagine these as stars of your own personal Latourian nightmare. You’re dreaming you’re in your local supermarket—maybe only in your underwear, maybe not—and you watch these two birds walk down aisle 6 and hop right into a meats freezer. You look down into the freezer. Shivering birds “Hello, bok, bok, bok, I’m a red dot special! I’m a red dot special!” You wake up in a cold sweat with feathers from your pillow floating everywhere.

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