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Planet Earth

Evolving Viruses To Death

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerJanuary 5, 2010 3:51 AM


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This fall, I gave a number of lectures about the evolution of swine flu. By the time I got to the end of the talk, I could tell that a lot of people in the audience were feeling a bit resigned, given the way evolution allows viruses like the flu to evade our best attacks. (Here's the full video of my lecture at the University of British Columbia.) To try to cheer up the crowd, I'd offer a note of hope--the notion that we could turn the evolution of viruses against them, by pushing them into mutation overdrive. (This slide gets across the basic idea--the flu virus is like a sports car. Going fast is cool. Going too fast--not so cool.) In tomorrow's New York Times, I lay out this intriguing idea, that goes by the profoundly cool name of lethal mutagenesis. Check it out.

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