Other Talks in the Series: The Immune System - Key Concepts and Questions

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Hello, my name is Anthony Rees. I'm a chemist turned biochemist. I was a university lecturer in molecular biophysics at the University of Oxford and later professor and head of biochemistry at the University of Bath. My field of interest is immunology with a special interest in antibodies. Since 2012, I've been writing about the history of antibodies and more recently vaccines. The lectures in this three-part series relate to the history of vaccines. In January of 2022 last year, my book on the history of vaccines was published. It's from this book that I've selected a few examples with pathogens that have afflicted the human population over thousands of years. We'll look at some of the early curative and often crude measures used before the advent of modern medical technologies. In particular, the seismic effect of vaccines on preventing human disease and reducing mortality.
On this slide, the details of each of the three lectures are outlined for you with the relevant chapters from the book highlighted for those wishing to see more detail of the topics covered. You can see in lecture one, this lecture will be covering infectious diseases, smallpox and yellow fever.
In his book, "Guns, Germs and Steel. A Short History of Everybody for the Last 13,000 Years in Britain", Jared Diamond explores the origins of human disease with a stunning conclusion that the movement of infectious agents from domestic animals to humans, what we call zoonosis, was facilitated and maintained by the effective and profitable business of farming. Different families with small farms would gather together in co-operative farming activities, generating small communities that brought significant numbers of people into contact with animals and with each other. In a five stage rite of passage, which you can see on the slide, Diamond and his colleagues postulated that certain infectious agents present in animal species do not pass all the hurdles to become established as human-specific infections. For example rabies, which used to be a stage 1, is caused by a neurotropic virus present in dogs, bats, and less frequently other animals and that hasn't evolved to move beyond the primary infection stage, stage 1. HIV on the other hand, has passed all five stages. We could also add influenza to that.