Wed, 30 Apr 2003 14:58:59 GMT

Where did SARS come from? The odds say zoonosis. I frequently get comments on SARS Watch Org and via email, suspicious that the SARS virus was created by somebody, because how could it appear from thin air? The probable answer is explained in this interesting article from the Boston Globe, Crossing the species barrier, which gives has some good background for the lay person on zoonosis, or the common spread of diseases from animal to human. The article gives examples of the many diseases that have crossed over from animals. A sample: When… [SARS Watch Org]

The Boston Globe article has some good info. One of the lessons from Jared Diamond’s classic book, Guns, Germs and Steel, was its convincing proposition that many of our most common illnesses came from the domestication of animals (i.e. smallpox). Zoonosis is an easy route for viruses to hop to a new niche. Until our immune systems adapt, they can cause huge problems. Pandemics always look like they appear from nowhere. That is the power of exponential growth.