Three Spanish microbiologists (F. Baquero, C. Nombela, and J. A. Gutierrez-Fuentes) plus one American (G. Cassell) edited Evolutionary Biology of Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens (ASM Press, 2007). We needn’t contribute a review of our own because a particularly informative one (there on the last three pages) by Ricardo Guerrero appeared in a recent issue of International Microbiology. This book is most timely because we are becoming increasingly aware that pathogenic microbiology is a branch of ecology. As Julian Davies notes in the Foreword: All microbiology is environmental microbiology and has been for billions of years. This book emphasizes that to successfully ward off pathogens requires an understanding of the evolution and ecology of the interacting partners. How else can we interpret the emergence of new pathogens and the re-emergence of others?
A major goal of Evolutionary Biology of Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens as a whole is to convey the idea that bacteria undertake similar forms of microbial variation in different habitats. The main distinction is that the habitat of a “natural” microorganism is the abiotic environment, while that of a pathogen is another living organism — the (human) host…Microbial infections of humans are a relatively recent interaction, whereas the genetic and biochemical functions necessary for invasion and infection of the “modern host” probably evolved in an ancient environment from cell-to-cell interactions between microbes and protists or small invertebrates. As such, bacterial virulence factors have not evolved merely to cause disease in humans; rather, they are part of a general mechanism to coexist with, to cover, or to penetrate eukaryotic cells.