A Thousand Microbes in Your Mouth and Other Scenes From the 2010 TEDMED Conference

10/28/10Follow @bvbigelow

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book with co-author Steve Gullans, that humans are evolving from Homo sapiens to Homo evolutus, a hominid that directly and deliberately controls the evolution of its own and other species. “We’re moving from reading the life code to writing the life code, and that is a very different circumstance,” says Enriquez, who urges the audience to think about what it means to “upgrade our species.”

A Sugar Glider

A Sugar Glider

—-Peter Daszak, president of the New York-based EcoHealth Alliance, begins his talk by saying, “A chimpanzee virus killed 25 million people. That’s why I’m here.” In fact, Daszak says HIV/AIDS is only one example of a number of emerging infectious diseases affecting humans today. Daszak, a disease ecologist, says approximately 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases affecting humans originated in wild or domestic animals. Bats, for example, carry rabies, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), Ebola, and the coronavirus. The scariest animal on the planet, Daszak says, is not a Bengal tiger, but the “sugar glider,” an adorable, bug-eyed marsupial with a long tail that glides from tree to tree. “I’m most afraid of this particular little animal, because the people are going into the forests of Indonesia to catch them, bring them into captivity, and ship them around the world—straight into our homes, where we hold them, kiss them, and cuddle up to them,” he says. “What easier way could there be for any one of this species’ 100 new viruses to spread to humans?”

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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