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The Public Library of Science could play a leading role in the introduction of evolution to physicians and medical scientists.

Posted by pbio on 07 May 2009 at 22:15 GMT

Author: Christian Wallner
Position: PhD student
Institution: Department of Anatomy & Embryology, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Submitted Date: February 26, 2007
Published Date: February 27, 2007
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

Physicians and medical scientists should be aware of the impact of evolution on our health and disease [1]. This was recently re-emphasized in the article of Antonovics et al. in PLOS Biology [2]. The authors demonstrate that researchers in the medical field rarely use the word ‘evolution’ to describe the way bacteria become resistant to antibiotics. Instead, such resistance is said to ‘emerge’, ‘arise’ or ‘spread’ rather than ‘evolve’. Additionally, the authors show that the failure of scientists to use the term ‘evolution’ may have a direct impact on the public perception of the importance of evolutionary biology in our daily lives.
To ensure that physicians and researchers become acquainted with the importance of evolution in the field of medicine, articles such as the one by Antonovics et al. [2] need to be published in journals read by a medically-orientated audience, rather than in biology journals. In the past, the majority of articles emphasising the importance of evolution to medicine, were published in biological [3–5] or general science journals [1]. Nevertheless, there have been several reviews on the subject in medical journals [6–10].
The Public Library of Science has an integrated organization of scientists and physicians. By publishing papers, such as the one of Antonovics et al. [2], in PLOS Medicine or PLOS One the authors’ message could have had an even bigger impact. PLOS One is a particularly good opportunity for such a renewal. Additionally, by including evolutionary biologists on the editorial board of the journal, the Public Library of Science could play a leading role in the introduction of evolution to physicians and medical scientists.

Reference List
1. Nesse RM, Stearns SC, Omenn GS (2006) Medicine needs evolution. Science 311: 1071.
2. Antonovics J, Abbate JL, Baker CH, Daley D, Hood ME, Jenkins CE, Johnson LJ, Murray JJ, Panjeti V, Rudolf VHW, Sloan D, Vondrasek J (2007) Evolution by Any Other Name: Antibiotic Resistance and Avoidance of the E-Word. PLoS Biology 5: e30.
3. Stearns SC, Ebert D (2001) Evolution in health and disease: work in progress. Q Rev Biol 76: 417-432.
4. Williams GC, Nesse RM (1991) The dawn of Darwinian medicine. Q Rev Biol 66: 1-22.
5. Ewald PW (1980) Evolutionary biology and the treatment of signs and symptoms of infectious disease. Journal of Theoretical Biology 86: 169-176.
6. Abbott A, Abboud G (2006) Evolutionary medicine: a model for medical school introduction. Medical Education 40: 471-472.
7. Eaton SB, Strassman BI, Nesse RM, Neel JV, Ewald PW, Williams GC, Weder AB, Eaton SB, III, Lindeberg S, Konner MJ, Mysterud I, Cordain L (2002) Evolutionary health promotion. Prev Med 34: 109-118.
8. Berlim MT, Abeche AM (2001) Evolutionary approach to medicine. Southern Medical Journal 94: 26-32.
9. Weiner H (1998) Notes on an evolutionary medicine. Psychosomatic Medicine 60: 510-520.
10. Charlton BG (1997) A syllabus for evolutionary medicine. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 90: 397-399.

No competing interests declared.