Pathogen virulence

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

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.”

Read:

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

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

Full lyrics below.

Lyrics “So Infectious”

Don’t be jealous if I’m overzealous
My flow is so infectious
So go get your own flagellas
‘Cause I’ma whip this…

I wanna rhyme like Streptococcus
Jump from throat to throat and get spotted
Hip-hop is such an infectious process
You spread it when you get it embedded in epiglottises
And when I talk to women
I’m so Clostridium botulinum
I just get up in your lips like a botox fix
When I flip it and rock the rhythm
I wanna scratch a record
That’s hard to resist like Staph infection
When I spit a verse, I work ya like MRSA
And get your impetigo itchin’
I got the sickest skills
Lyrically I’m Clostridium difficile
When I run up in the lab with a sample in a bag
Technicians say my shiz-nit is ill

Infectious, I’m so infectious
I colonize beats like petri dishes
Infectious, I’m so infectious
I’m lyrically spirochete twisted

Every time I rhyme on the beat so fly
I’m EHEC E. coli
If a man try to bite me, he goin’ die
But you’ll find I’m benign if you be bovine
What’s this? It’s a hell of a ruckus
It’s hyped up like Roc-a-fella productions
I make crowds go “whoop whoop” when I bust this
Whooping like it’s Bordetella pertussis
I rap now, I used to be a tree planter
I’ll turn a professor into an obscene dancer
Yeah, she’s tenured, but she wants the rapper
Keen for some horizontal gene transfer
I pop champagne like an optimist
You can check my gram stain, I’m positive
Bacillus anthracis rockin’ this
Mainstream rap is so acidophilus

Infectious, I’m so infectious
I colonize beats like petri dishes
Infectious, I’m so infectious
I’m lyrically spirochete twisted

I’m Canadian born, although I dwell in America
I’m known as a hell of a character
I get up in your guts, Salmonella enterica
And make ya kind of ill and embarrass ya
My X-Factors give lesser rappers
Peptic ulcers; I’m so Helicobacter
Pylori, that you best step backwards
Or you might start developing cancers
‘Cause I live to spread my rhymes, vicarious
Diplococci? Fine, I’m bi-curious
I wouldn’t wanna be a gonarrhoean, I’m serious
I’m into meninge when it comes to Neisserians
This is my planet and I plan to own it
Any beat, I can breathe on it, I’m anaerobic
I’m a virus too, but that’s a can I haven’t opened
That’ll be my epidemic moment

Infectious, I’m so infectious
I colonize beats like petri dishes
Infectious, I’m so infectious
I’m lyrically spirochete twisted

Infectious, I’m so infectious
In your textbooks like Christians in Texas
Infectious, I’m so infectious
I’m lyrically spirochete twisted

Infectious, I’m so infectious
Like your blood is a club and I’m on the guestlist
Infectious, I’m so infectious
I’m lyrically spirochete twisted

Infectious, I’m so infectious
Man or woman, I don’t care, I’m not sexist
Infectious, I’m so infectious
I’m lyrically spirochete twisted

Lyrics “Parasite Wars”

Parasite wars, viruses, spores
Protozoa, bacteria, microbes galore
They evolve faster
But we can flip their strategy backwards
Before they turn us into eyesores

Parasite wars are ancient, we’ve been entangled
With ‘em since before we had a brain on the tip of our brainstem
Trapped in an arms race with ‘em, runnin’ to keep
Pace with ‘em, Red Queen, stuck in one place with the
Microbes, if you’re thinkin’ they’re quite gross
Disgust is beneficial for a parasite’s host
Every host-parasite interaction is a mystery
Until you consider its evolutionary history
That’s the enigma code, Alan Turing
Gotta stay out of the water when a guinea worm is burrowing
That burning acid is just to get you to splash in
The river so the bastard’s eggs are broadcasted
Ask Jimmy Carter, it isn’t hard to take hold of
The situation by interrupting host manipulation
Don’t scratch it! Damn, that feeling of itchiness
Was just to get you to attach eggs to your fingertips
Parasites have evolved to manipulate
Our behaviour so that their genes proliferate
What you think a sneeze is for, clearing your nostrils?
Nah, that’s a virus takin’ over the launch codes

Parasite wars, fighting for lives never high scores
Escalate the arms race with the strike force
The harder we hit them
The more they fight back with resistance
Tryin’ to find the right course
Parasite wars, viruses, spores
Protozoa, bacteria, microbes galore
They evolve faster
But we can flip their strategy backwards
Before they turn us into eyesores

Parasite wars, whoa, they’re clever as hell
How’d they get to know us better than we know ourselves?
How does rabies virus know to go for the saliva glands
And attack the brain and make a mammal crazy fighting mad
Foaming at the mouth, ready to bite and pass
On a mouthful of crazy little baby rabies viruses
Damn, that’s a clever little parasite
Plasmodia live in mosquitos in the air in flight
But they’re patient, they never attack a carrier
Benign in mosquitos but in people they’re malaria?
Leavin’ you weaker and weaker, weeks and weeks of fever
’Til you’re nothin’ but a sack of hot meat, a mosquito feeder
Ahhh, there’s a method to the madness
Effects are selected when benefits are adaptive
For the pathogens, that’s why some are deadly serious
And others are mild: it’s the evolution of virulence
Cholera can spread through vectors like the water systems
We can pass it on even from incapacitated victims
But STDs are different, they only keep working
If they leave you on your feet and flirting

Parasite wars, fighting for lives never high scores
Escalate the arms race with the strike force
The harder we hit them
The more they fight back with resistance
Tryin’ to find the right course
Parasite wars, viruses, spores
Protozoa, bacteria, microbes galore
They evolve faster
But we can flip their strategy backwards
Before they turn us into eyesores

Parasite wars!
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
And they don’t give a plasmid about you and your family
So all we gotta do is interrupt the vectors
And lower virulence is artificially selected
That’s one way to leave disease decimated
If you can’t beat it, you can try to domesticate it
We’ve already domesticated a few
There’s a hundred trillion microbes inside of you
They’re commensals, but they can make you crave food
Hijack your vagus nerve and affect your mood
But microbiota isn’t even as deep as it gets
Your DNA is chock full of endogenous retroviruses
Your ancestor got an STD
It got trapped in your genome next to the rest of your genes
And adapted to help your placenta get implanted
So next time you catch a virus maybe you should thank it
Ha! Watch out for the vectors
The double agents and defectors

In the parasite wars, fighting for lives never high scores
Escalate the arms race with the strike force
The harder we hit them
The more they fight back with resistance
Tryin’ to find the right course
Parasite wars, viruses, spores
Protozoa, bacteria, microbes galore
They evolve faster
But we can flip their strategy backwards
Before they turn us into eyesores

2 thoughts on “Pathogen virulence

  1. Pingback: 10 reasons to avoid an antibiotic prescription | Evolution Medicine

  2. Pingback: Evolutionary mistakes physicians make | Evolution Medicine

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