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A bug’s life

The pharmaceutical arms race with microbes is unwinnable. We have to learn that successful diseases need us to survive

By Jerome Burne   July 2001

imagine what life is like for a virus or bacteria infecting the human body. You have a series of problems. You must get in, evade the sentinels of the immune system, make as many copies of yourself as possible and then, most importantly, get passed on to a new host. Failure at any stage will mean a decline in the numbers of your particular gene combination in the gene pool. Success means that your numbers will grow.

It is not a difficult exercise, yet thinking about microbes in this way has the potential to transform our ideas about diseases and…

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