Globalisation breeding deadlier viruses, warns study

May 28th, 2009 - 12:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, May 28 (IANS) The rapidly globalising world might be becoming a breeding ground for new dangerous viruses, warns a new Canadian study.
The study by the University of Western Ontario says that as people from one part of the world mingle with those from the other end of the world, the viruses travelling with them also mingle to create newer, deadlier strains by natural selection.

“It turns out when hosts (human beings) for these pathogens (viruses or germs) start moving around a lot, it tends to set the stage for natural selection to create more dangerous, or more virulent, strains,” said mathematics professor and research leader Geoff Wild in a university statement Wednesday.

“As we create a world where we can get from one side of the globe to the other in 24 hours, we are making a human population that is fairly well-mixed,” he said.

“And we are setting the stage for the action of natural selection to produce more virulent, possibly more deadly, strains of virus.”

To make this dire warning, the researchers developed a formal mathematical model by incorporating theoretical dynamics of parasite population.

This model was used to determine the evolutionary mechanism of the populations of newer viruses, the university statement said.

Wild said their mathematical model produced results which suggested that a virus has a vested interest not only in its own success, but also n the success of its relatives.

“Basically, we replace the notion of self-interest, an idea that underlies much of early evolutionary theory, with the notion of self and family interest,” he said.

He said since their findings are based on a theoretical model, “there is no need to cancel international flights just yet”.

The Canadian professor added: “I am certainly not sounding an alarm bell, but it is what could happen.”

The Canadian researchers were joined by their colleagues from the University of Edinburgh in the study.

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