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Of parasites and men

Abstract : The living world has evolved and is evolving through interspecific relationships between organisms. The diversity of these interactions is enormous going from mutualism to parasitism. Humans live with a multitude of microorganisms, essential for their biology. However, interactions are not always advantageous. Indeed, many organisms might become pathogens, such as the Plasmodium species, the causative agents of malaria. Like many other microorganisms, they are «Machiavellian» in their capacity to elaborate a range of reproduction strategies, giving them a huge advantage in terms of adaptation. Here, we discuss the role played by parasites in the ecology and evolution of living organisms and particularly of humans. In the study of infectious diseases, humans are legitimately the focal point, although they represent only one ecosystem among many others and not taking this into account certainly biases our global view of the system. Indeed, we know only a minimal fraction of the microorganisms we live with. However, parasites have shaped and are still shaping the human genome. Several genetic signatures are the proofs of the selection pressures by parasites that humankind has endured during its evolution. But, ultimately, what are the solutionsfor living with pathogens? Should we eradicate them or should we learn how to control and manage them?
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Anne-Laure Bañuls, Fréderic Thomas, François Renaud. Of parasites and men. Infection, Genetics and Evolution, Elsevier, 2013, 20, pp.61-70. ⟨10.1016/j.meegid.2013.08.005⟩. ⟨hal-02513185⟩

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