Microorganisms as Shapers of Human Civilization, from Pandemics to Even Our Genomes: Villains or Friends? A Historical Approach
Universal history is characterized by continuous evolution, in which civilizations are born and die. This evolution is associated with multiple factors, among which the role of microorganisms is often overlooked. Viruses and bacteria have written or decisively contributed to terrible episodes of history, such as the Black Death in 14th century Europe, the annihilation of pre-Columbian American civilizations, and pandemics such as the 1918 Spanish flu or the current COVID-19 pandemic caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Nevertheless, it is clear that we could not live in a world without these tiny beings. Endogenous retroviruses have been key to our evolution and for the regulation of gene expression, and the gut microbiota helps us digest compounds that we could not otherwise process. In addition, we have used microorganisms to preserve or prepare food for millennia and more recently to obtain drugs such as antibiotics or to develop recombinant DNA technologies. Due to the enormous importance of microorganisms for our survival, they have significantly influenced the population genetics of different human groups. This paper will review the role of microorganisms as “villains” who have been responsible for tremendous mortality throughout history but also as “friends” who help us survive and evolve.
SARS-CoV-2; Influenza; Microbiota
Rodríguez-Frías F, Quer J, Tabernero D, Cortese MF, Garcia-Garcia S, Rando-Segura A, et al. Microorganisms as Shapers of Human Civilization, from Pandemics to Even Our Genomes: Villains or Friends? A Historical Approach. Microorganisms. 2021 Dec;9(12):2518.
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