In the past few days, the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico has elevated the public interest in disease and the micro-organisms that cause it. So far, a reported 42 cases of the flu have been confirmed in the United States.
Dr. Richard Colling, a microbiology professor at Olivet-Nazarene University, believes that Darwin’s theory of evolution is most prevalent on this on this microscopic level. Speaking on the subject of immunology at Michigan State University on Feb. 19, Colling reiterated the notion that medicine is actually allowing for selection to take place.
“Natural selection has not been elimated in this advanced medical world we live in,” he said. “In fact, it is quite the opposite.”
“For example, take pneumonia. In the past, certain natural pressures would allow this infection to kill off humans before they could reach reproductive age. Now, medicine allows people to survive this and spread their genetic traits causing different selection to take place,” he said.
Colling also believes that easy intermixing of genes in this globalized world will increase the rate at which evolution occurs.
“There is more randomness now in today’s world,” he said. “This will actually speed up evolution as more combinations of DNA mix between people of different populations.”
The mixing of viruses in organisms can cause evolution and a creation of new strains as well. According to the UK Department of Health, pigs can carry the swine flu in a population while also carrying a human virus at the same time. These two viruses can mix and mutate into a form that passes easily to humans.