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Chapter 15 : Genomic and Metagenomic Approaches for Predicting Pathogen Evolution
Category: General Interest; Environmental Microbiology
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Emerging infectious diseases have been defined as microbial infections “whose incidence in humans has increased in the past 2 decades or threatens to increase in the near future” ( 1 ). Microbial causes of emerging infectious diseases generally fall into two groups: (i) new pathogens that arise following environmental disturbance or acquisition of novel virulence traits and (ii) existing and known pathogens that have spread to new geographic areas or populations. In both cases, human activities play a key role in the evolution and transmission of these diseases. Human disruption of the natural environment alters not only the physical landscape but also the invisible microbial landscape. This process can facilitate transfer of virulence genes to new hosts or exposure of naïve hosts to previously unidentified pathogens. Due to the tremendous impact of emerging diseases on human and animal populations, we need a better understanding of how new diseases evolve and how to detect emerging diseases in order to develop more effective ways to predict outbreaks before they happen.