Accidental Survival

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It’s an exceedingly common “evidence” of evolution that this website (and this column) has countered on numerous occasions: drug (mostly in terms of antibiotic) resistance, which is usually construed as a proof of molecules-to-man evolution.

You’ll be glad to read, then, that we’re not going to deal with that again. Well, not exactly.

Nature reports on the influenza virus’s 90% resistance to a “powerful group of antiviral drugs, the adamantane family”—a resistance previously blamed on the use (some might say “overuse”) of the aforementioned drugs. Now, a study that began with the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that use of adamantane drugs may not be responsible for influenza’s immunity, but that instead, influenza may have “‘accidentally’ hit on drug resistance through natural evolution. The article explains:

To better understand [the CDCP result], a team of researchers led by the National Institutes of Health [...] examined a large international collection of viral genomes. They found that a single type of mutation was responsible for every case of resistance they studied. “If pressure from admantane [sic] use was behind this, we would have expected to see all possible resistance point mutations appear, but we only saw one,” says [epidemiologist ] Lone Simonsen[.]

While the article does not elaborate further on the nature of the mutation (other than to describe it as having “hitch-hiked along with other genes that allowed the virus to escape immunologic detection”), it appears that this is like other mutations leading to antibiotic resistance via natural selection, and probably resulted in a decrease in genetic information “through a series of 'bottlenecks' that restrict the populations' ability to survive.” Such mutations could happen for an infinite period of time yet would never result in the information-gaining that is necessary for simple life to evolve in complexity.

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