Pathways of Discovery

Infectious History

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Science  14 Apr 2000:
Vol. 288, Issue 5464, pp. 287-293
DOI: 10.1126/science.288.5464.287

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In this month's essay, Joshua Lederberg escorts readers on a many-century, transglobal history of the ever intimate and often harrowing cohabitation of humanity and microbes. According to Lederberg, the success of the "wonder drugs" of the 1950s led many to believe that the "war on microbes" had been fought and won, but the emergence of new infectious agents such as HIV and Ebola has shattered that illusion. Ultimate survival, he suggests, may require us humans to embrace a more microbial point of view, in which microbes and their human hosts constitute a "superorganism."