Microbiome in Surgery

John Alverdy from the University of Chicago describes the problem of health care associated infections and how interventions aimed at the microbiome in surgery can help. Worth a look (good production values too!):

Special lecture Jeremy Taylor Feb 2nd

Jeremy Taylor, science writer and award winning BBC producer and director, will be in Albuquerque on February 2-3, 2016 to discuss evolutionary medicine and his new book, Body by Darwin: How Evolution Shapes Our Health and Transforms Medicine.

The talk is entitled “Your body by Darwin” and will include compelling case studies that make clear that the human body is not a simple machine, but is instead a collection of adaptations and trade-offs, with surprising implications for health and disease.  This talk is sponsored by UNM’s Center for Evolutionary and Theoretical Immunology.


Jeremy Taylor

A preview chapter – how parasitic worms and microbes keep you healthy – can be found here. Books will be available for signing during his visit to UNM.

Jeremy Taylor will be on the medical campus on February 3rd to give a second talk in the Innovation Discovery and Training Complex at 1:30pm. Contact Joe Alcock for additional details.


Jeremy Taylor has spent a career in British science television where he produced a number of award-winning films. They include The Blind Watchmaker, with Richard Dawkins, for the BBC, which won the Royal Society’s Scitech prize for science documentary, and Mindreaders for Channel 4, which won Silver Prize at the British Medical Association Film Competition. His first book “Not a Chimp: The Hunt for the Genes That Made Us Human” was published by Oxford University Press in 2009. This lecture tour is based on his second book “Body by Darwin: How Evolution Shapes Our Health and Transforms Medicine,” which was published in October 2015 by University of Chicago Press

UNM community and visitors welcome:

Tuesday, February 2nd 2016, 1:00PM; 107 Castetter Hall

Directions – Castetter is #21:



Sleep via Jawbone

These are some cool data. I am currently gathering data on a small sample of emergency physicians to determine the relationship between sleep, overnight shift work and mood, among other things. We have not analyzed those data yet, but in a larger sample (from a commercial source), it appears that sleep duration has a prominent effect on mood.

Continue reading

2016 Evolutionary Medicine ISEMPH Meeting

2016 promises to be a very exciting year for evolutionary medicine. I will be writing a fair bit about this exciting meeting: the second annual meeting of ISEMPH, the International Society for Evolution Medicine and Public Health. Register now, and submit an abstract!

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 12.39.32 PM

Call for Abstracts:  2016 International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health Meeting

The second annual meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health will take place from June 22-25, 2016 in Durham, North Carolina, thanks to host Charles Nunn and the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine. Hundreds of scientists will attend including six invited plenary speakers: Andrea Graham (Princeton University), Carl Zimmer (New York Times), Helen Ball (Durham University, UK), Joshua Schiffman (University of Utah), Marion Koopmans (Erasmus University) and Martin Blaser (New York University).

The Program Committee welcomes your abstracts for oral or poster presentations on all topics in the field of evolution, medicine and public health.

To register for the meeting, submit an abstract and learn about the meeting go to http://evolutionarymedicine.org/isemph2016.

Important Dates
Early registration deadline: January 30, 2016.

Abstract submission deadline: January 30, 2016.

Abstract decision notification:  early-March

Group rate deadline for hotels: May 1, 2016
·         Hotels with guaranteed rates have limited numbers of rooms available book early directly with the hotel.

Regular registration ends: May 1, 2016

We look forward to seeing you for a memorable and exciting meeting!

Randolph Nesse, President, ISEMPH
Sir Peter Gluckman, Vice-President, ISEMPH
Charles Nunn, Chair, Local Arrangements Committee
Cynthia Beall, Treasurer, ISEMPH

Program Committee members
Cynthia Beall, Chair
·         Joe Alcock
·         Gillian Bentley
·         Michelle Blyth
·         Jon Laman
·         Randy Nesse
·         Charles Nunn
·         Frank Rühli
·         Joshua Schiffman

Final projects

I hope everybody enjoys Thanksgiving!  For myself, I have a lot to be grateful for, including the privilege of teaching this class.

Here is what I will be looking for in your presentations: Try to spend at least 50%, preferably more, of your time talking about ultimate causation, evolutionary considerations, or natural selection. Do not leave the evolutionary parts to the end of your presentation. Be sure to review the grading rubric.

I would like you to correctly identify an evolutionary concept (or evolutionary hypothesis category). These include (in no particular order):

  • evolution of virulence
  • host-pathogen arms race
  • red queen hypothesis
  • evolutionary trade-offs
  • life history theory
  • balancing selection
  • gene-environment mismatch
  • paleolithic diet hypothesis (and criticism)
  • inclusive fitness (kin selection)
  • adaptation
  • natural selection
  • genetic drift
  • antagonistic pleiotropy
  • declining power of selection with age (mutation accumulation)
  • evolution of resistance (to antibiotics, pesticides, chemotherapy)
  • disposable soma
  • host defenses (like fever, cough)
  • reaction norms
  • developmental plasticity, developmental programming
  • predictive adaptive response
  • thrifty genes, thrifty phenotype
  • hygiene hypothesis, old friends hypothesis
  • genetic conflicts, parasite manipulation
  • adaptive sickness behavior
  • cancer as somatic evolution, cancer as infectious process
  • conflict and cooperation in the microbiome

This is not an exhaustive list. If there is another concept you want to discuss, email me and I will add it. If you are confused, I want you to get it right, so email me or email John prior to your presentation.

It is good to also include at least one alternative hypothesis. In that case the alternative, or null hypothesis, might be a non-evolutionary hypothesis.

Please practice your presentation, preferably with a timer. I want you to aim for 12 – 15 minutes per presentation.

Finally, remember Dec 1 will be potluck, as discussed in class. See you then!



Pathogen virulence

Next Tuesday November 24th, we will cover the evolution of virulence.

From Baba Brinkman’s Parasite Wars:

“For the pathogens, that’s why some are deadly serious
And others are mild: it’s the evolution of virulence…We got the pattern figured out. Some can only spread if they keep you walkin’ around
Others spread better if you’re stuck in bed in agony.”

There will be no writing assignment. Two students will be giving final presentations on Tuesday starting at 7:00pm.

Why do some infections kill us, while others are hardly noticed?


Evolution of virulence. Ewald PW. 2004. Infect Dis Clin N Am (18)

Watch and Read Baba Brinkman’s “Parasite Wars” and “So Infectious”

For discussion:

Why do “hospital-acquired” infections get different antibiotics than “community acquired” infections? Which are generally worse and why?


Suppose the New Mexico Legislature is taking up the following bill for consideration. It promotes the use of hand sanitizer before every handshake; it would be illegal for somebody to not use hand sanitizer before shaking hands with another person. The bill would be accompanied by a massive public information campaign and incentive program, for instance free hand sanitizer. Explore the effects of this initiative on the evolution of Rhinovirus, the virus that causes the common cold. Assume that after enactment,this bill results in a change in behavior of New Mexico citizens.  Would you expect a change in virulence, the duration of infectivity, transmission rates, and mortality of Rhinovirus in New Mexico?

Update: Enjoy Baba Brinkman’s “So Infectious” and “Parasite Wars”

Be prepared to discuss these tracks, full lyrics below.

Continue reading