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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jan 26;107 Suppl 1:1702-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0906198106. Epub 2009 Dec 4.

Evolution in health and medicine Sackler colloquium: Evolution and public health.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Medical School and School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2218, USA.


Evolution and its elements of natural selection, population migration, genetic drift, and founder effects have shaped the world in which we practice public health. Human cultures and technologies have modified life on this planet and have coevolved with myriad other species, including microorganisms; plant and animal sources of food; invertebrate vectors of disease; and intermediate hosts among birds, mammals, and nonhuman primates. Molecular mechanisms of differential resistance or susceptibility to infectious agents or diets have evolved and are being discovered with modern methods. Some of these evolutionary relations require a perspective of tens of thousands of years, whereas other changes are observable in real time. The implications and applications of evolutionary understanding are important to our current programs and policies for infectious disease surveillance, gene-environment interactions, and health disparities globally.

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