The frequency of emerging infectious diseases has increased in the past few decades, but the history of humankind has been marked by the emergence, spread and later persistence of new pathogens. Reconstructing the evolution of pathogens adapted to humans can provide insight into the conditions that ultimately led to their long-term association with our species. I will show how different approaches in pathogen evolutionary genomics can be used to clarify the origins in space and time of human pathogens, drawing on examples from our research on herpesviruses, measles viruses and influenza A viruses. I will specifically highlight how these approaches can help us identify the complex ecological processes that influence pathogen transmission between animal species and spread within humans.
Sébastien Calvignac-Spencer is an evolutionary biologist at the Robert Koch Institute. He investigates the origins and evolution of animal and human pathogens to understand the conditions of their emergence and persistence in their hosts. His work has shed a new light on antediluvian associates of mankind, such as herpes viruses, as well as on pathogens responsible of much more recent pandemics, such as the 1918 influenza A virus.
Moderation: Professor Dr. Fabian Leendertz