The ecology of pathogenic viruses can be considered both in the context of survival in the macro-environments of nature, the theme pursued generally by epidemiologists, and in the micro-environments of the infected host. The long-lived, complex, higher vertebrates have evolved specialized, adaptive immune systems designed to minimise the consequences of such parasitism. Through evolutionary time, the differential selective pressures exerted variously by the need for virus and host survival have shaped both the "one-host" viruses and vertebrate immunity. With the development of vaccines to protect us from many of our most familiar parasites, the most dangerous pathogens threatening us now tend to be those "emerging", or adventitious, infectious agents that sporadically enter human populations from avian or other wild-life reservoirs. Such incursions must, of course, have been happening through the millenia, and are likely to have led to the extraordinary diversity of recognition molecules, the breadth in effector functions, and the persistent memory that distinguishes the vertebrate, adaptive immune system from the innate response mechanisms that operate more widely through animal biology. Both are important to contemporary humans and, particularly in the period immediately following infection, we still rely heavily on an immediate response capacity, elements of which are shared with much simpler, and more primitive organisms. Perhaps we will now move forward to develop useful therapies that exploit, or mimic, such responses. At this stage, however, most of our hopes for minimizing the threat posed by viruses still focus on the manipulation of the more precisely targeted, adaptive immune system.
|Number of pages||16|
|Journal||Archives of Virology. Supplementum|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jan 2005|