Fatal Jump, Tracking the Origins of Pandemics

xpect the unexpected. This adage flawlessly embodies infectious diseases and pathogens. The causative agents of infectious diseases—think viruses, bacteria, and other microbes—master the art of exploiting any shortcoming, any breach, any loophole in our defensive arsenal—sometimes in the most unanticipated of manner. They can resist our most dedicated control and eradication plans. They can defeat our most advanced antimicrobials, evade our best-trained immune system, and sabotage our most daring vaccine development efforts. Others can switch hosts and successfully use human beings to perpetuate themselves, even for just that one-time jump or zoonotic infection—those diseases transmitted between animals and humans.

And of course, they can trigger worldwide pandemics . . . or not . . . or not yet. The causative agents of infectious diseases master the art of defying our finest understanding of disease emergence and our most trusted predictions.