The evolution of virus diseases: their emergence, epidemicity, and control.

Journal Article (Journal Article;Review)

The evolution of virus diseases, both their emergence and disappearance, involves complex interactions between the agent, the host, and the environment. These themes are illustrated by three examples, poliomyelitis of humans, bovine spongiform encephalopathy of cattle, and AIDS of humans. Emergence may be due to evolution of the virus genome, such as probably occurred in parvovirus infection of dogs and human immunodeficiency virus infection of humans. However, emergence of some new viral diseases can be traced to host or environmental factors with no change in the agent. Poliomyelitis, an enteric infection, probably emerged as an epidemic disease due to improvements in personal hygiene and public sanitation which led to a delay in the occurrence of initial infections from the perinatal period (when maternal antibody protected against paralysis) to later childhood when passive immunity had waned. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a common source epidemic which was transmitted through nutritional supplements which became contaminated due to a change in the method of production of bone meal supplements in rendering plants. The reduction of disappearance of virus diseases usually involves human intervention, as exemplified by immunization for smallpox and other virus diseases of humans and animals. Naturally occurring immunity may lead to fadeout of a virus as seen with measles in isolated island populations. Evolution of a virus can also result in waning of a disease as seen with myxomatosis among rabbits in Australia. The evolution of virus diseases is a provocative scientific topic and carries lessons relevant to the control of important diseases of humans, animals, and plants.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Nathanson, N; McGann, KA; Wilesmith, J; Desrosiers, RC; Brookmeyer, R

Published Date

  • July 1993

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 29 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 3 - 20

PubMed ID

  • 8212850

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0168-1702

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/0168-1702(93)90122-4


  • eng

Conference Location

  • Netherlands