November 19, 2008

The Importance of Biodiversity to Medicine

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Medicine, Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts (Drs Bernstein and Ludwig); and the Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School (Dr Bernstein), Boston, Massachusetts.

JAMA. 2008;300(19):2297-2299. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.655

In the past 12 months alone, more than 1000 new species were identified.1 Some were found in Earth's most remote locations, such as the Weddell Sea off Antarctica or central Australia's Simpson Desert, where 3 species of carnivorous sponges and a new microbat species were found, respectively. In addition, nearly 100 previously unknown species of bacteria were found to be inhabiting human epidermis. When it comes to biodiversity—a term that describes the variety of life on the planet—the more scientists look, the more they find. But these discoveries represent far more than just novelty. In them can be found a major engine of advancement for medicine and biomedical research and a new lens with which to look on human health and disease.

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