From: Wade Smith (email@example.com)
Date: Fri 04 Oct 2002 - 15:51:52 GMT
Any model of memes has to take into account their identification. (I'll
plug the artifact and the behavior-only models as having solved this
little peccadillo....) This article about viruses also reminds us that a
viral model of memes suffers from the same difficulties that biological
ones do- mechanisms of emergence remain unrevealed, even in the most
dangerous of cases.
> [NB] No official surveillance program for spotting novel emergent
> viruses exists, says Hyatt, but the network of other surveillance
> programs would "maybe" pick up any unusual events. "The question is
> difficult," he added, "because how can one detect emerging viruses
> unless they have emerged?"
What makes emerging viruses emerge?
27 September 2002 12:50 GMT
by Bea Perks
The transformation of two harmless fruit-bat infections into killers of
humans has been disturbing enough to trigger an international research
effort aimed at figuring out just what's going on. Researchers from
Australia, Malaysia, the US, and Britain are poised to embark on a
$1.5-million project to study these diseases and their environmental antecedents.
The bat infections are caused by so-called paramyxoviruses, which
recently proved themselves far from harmless when they leaped the
species barrier. The first, Hendra virus, was identified in Australia in
1994 when it killed two people. The second, Nipah virus, made a more
dramatic appearance when it killed 105 people in Malaysia in 1998. The
virus appears to need an intermediate host before it passes to humans:
Hendra virus initially infected horses; the deadlier Nipah virus was
first transmitted to pigs.
The key question, says Peter Daszak, who will be coordinating the
multi-center project from his base at the Consortium for Conservation
Medicine (CCM) in Palisades, New York, is what prompted these viruses to
suddenly jump from fruit bats - where they've probably co-evolved for a
few million years into humans.
Daszak hopes that the project will lead researchers to understand how
environmental changes caused by human activity could drive emergence,
eventually informing predictions of the next outbreaks and enabling
concrete actions to stop them or prevent them altogether.
Support for the project, "Anthropogenic Change and Emerging Zoonotic
Paramyxoviruses," is provided by the US National Institutes of Health's
Fogarty International Center. Funds will be distributed among two
centers in Australia, three in Malaysia, four in the US, and one in the
UK. The award was granted in August and work will start in October. Some
groups will focus on the disease itself, while others will concentrate
on ecological aspects.
Researchers at the International Medical University in Malaysia, for
example, will examine possible links between El Niņo, fire, fruit-bat
migration, and virus emergence, while researchers in Malaysia's
Veterinary Research Institute will study the serology of Malaysian fruit
bats and purify the viruses from their sera.
Research at the CCM under Dazsak will examine how agriculture has
changed in Malaysia. Have pig farms, for instance, become more closely
associated with bat habitats recently?
In Australia, Alex Hyatt at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory of
CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) is
leading a researcher team that will investigate viral pathogenesis in
Australian and Malaysian fruit bats and try to determine how they shed
the virus. He and his colleagues will study the amount of virus that is
needed to infect pigs and they'll analyze field scenarios whereby pigs
can become infected.
With all this research effort, however, one concern remains. With the
emphasis on predicting outbreaks of recently emerged viruses, would
other novel emergent viruses be overlooked? His center aims to
investigate virus biodiversity in fruit bats, Daszak says, by gathering
funds from several sources.
No official surveillance program for spotting novel emergent viruses
exists, says Hyatt, but the network of other surveillance programs would
"maybe" pick up any unusual events. "The question is difficult," he added, "because how can one detect emerging viruses unless they have emerged?"
Daszak says the problem is serious, not just for virology but for the
whole of microbiology.
"There are a small number of programs investigating biodiversity of
other unknown potentially zoonotic pathogens, but they're difficult to
fund," said Daszak. "People [that is, peers who review grants] often see
these as stamp-collecting fishing expeditions and not good science,
because they don't test hypotheses. But I disagree - it's a key part of
predicting future emergence to know the range of pathogens out there."
This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the
Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission
For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing)
This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed 16 Oct 2002 - 16:03:21 GMT