2.8 How Genetic Features Affect Disease

Biology is ruled by genetics, and disease is also closely linked to human genetics. Just like human genetics have evolved, the disease-causing pathogens have evolved as well, mostly in interaction with their hosts.

Both human and pathogen genomes have been shaped by interaction with each other. For example, our immune system has evolved to recognize and attack disease when exposed to it, and the pathogens have evolved to mutate and survive this immune response.

Pathogen-imposed selection has also impacted how human beings have evolved when confronted with widespread diseases such as malaria, which impacts the structure and function of red blood cells (RBCs). This selection pressure has been reduced due to the rapid advances in medicine and technology.

However, our improved immunity and response to all diseases has forced pathogens to evolve as well. They have become resistant to medication and interventions. For example, extensive antibiotic use has caused bacteria to become resistant, requiring the use of even stronger antibiotics to fight off bacterial infections.

Furthermore, we have seen a rise in virus epidemics, namely SARS and COVID-19.

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