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February 4, 1998

BiodiversityBiodiversity and Human Health

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorJonathan D.EldredgeMLS, PhD, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for software


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JAMA. 1998;279(5):408-409. doi:10.1001/jama.279.5.408-JBK0204-7-1

Fashions in science rise and fall as frequently as hemlines—but with more substance than style. The current buzzword biodiversity, with its open-ended connotations, embraces and is embraced by many things and is perhaps so broad in its eye-glazing implications that it has no (acknowledged) enemies. Therefore I approached with some reluctance my review of this published summary of a like-named conference held in 1995 at the Smithsonian Institution.

In the wake of recent publications and conferences on environmental influences on the origin of emerging infections and new diseases, it seemed as if the cream had been skimmed off the concept as it relates to human health. Dear reader, I was quite mistaken. Although the usual suspects in the form of zoonotic diseases with human invasive potential are adequately reviewed, they comprise only a small portion of the broad agenda of this book. The introductory and prefatory statements by Thomas Lovejoy of the Smithsonian, Philip Schambra of the Fogarty International Center, and the editors set the stage well, reminding us of the early recognition by the Rockefeller Foundation of the need for interdisciplinary collaboration by field naturalists and microbiologists and providing specific examples of the fruits of such research.

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