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Infectious Diseases Through an Evolutionary Lens

Organisers: Wendy Barclay, Sara Cherry, David Tobin and Russell Vance

Date: 17 - 19 October 2023

Location: British Medical Association House, London, UK

Infectious diseases have exerted strong selective evolutionary pressure on humans and other hosts throughout history. There is growing appreciation of the use of evolutionary analyses to gain insight into the critical interactions between pathogen and host that lead to disease, tolerance or resolution for SARS-CoV-2, tuberculosis, HIV, malaria and other infectious diseases. Understanding these interactions provides insights into (i) the key host defences that successfully limit the pathogen, (ii) the mechanisms by which pathogens have subverted and overcome these defences, (iii) new opportunities for therapies, and (iv) the origins and emergence of novel pathogens. Studies in standard model systems with a single strain of pathogen often neither fully reflect the complexity and diverse manifestations of disease nor provide a robust platform for evaluating therapies. Evolutionary approaches expand these studies to diverse host-pathogen pairings and provide insight into the molecular arms race that occurs between host and pathogen, pinpointing critical interactions (and therapeutic targets) that determine host outcome after infection.

This meeting will provide a unique opportunity to bring together leading experts in infectious diseases, host-pathogen interactions and evolutionary biology to examine new insights into infectious diseases, including pathogen evolution and emergence, and their treatment. Participants will include evolutionary biologists, immunologists, virologists, researchers studying microbial pathogenesis, human geneticists and clinicians, a diverse group who might normally not encounter each other in field-specific meetings. With talks from an outstanding list of speakers from five continents, as well as selected delegates, we will delve further into this important area of research, as well as generate new ideas and collaborations to help shape the future of infectious disease research.

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