The Science of Paleovirology

It sounds like a sci-fi nightmare: scientists bring back to life ancient deadly viruses that once wiped out vast numbers of the human race for research purposes only, of course. And where do they go to find those extinct diseases? Deep within our own genome.

Long ago, some of the viruses that didn’t kill us got absorbed into our genes and sit there to this day. Most are silent fossils. But some work with our bodies to make us better, stronger.

It’s wild stuff. And it’s not science fiction.

This hour, On Point: The new science of paleovirology and the long evolutionary embrace of man and virus.


Michael Specter, staff writer for the New Yorker. His story in this week’s issue is titled “Darwin’s Surprize.”

John Coffin, Professor of Molecular Biology and Microbiology at Tufts University.

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