In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, the Red Queen tells Alice that “it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” This passage inspired the name of one of the principal concepts of evolution: in its broadest sense, the Red Queen hypothesis describes the evolutionary arms race between two species—say, predator and prey—who evolve side by side in response to each other, both vying for survival by adapting to the pressure of coexistence. In the past several weeks of covering the new global coronavirus outbreak, the Red Queen has certainly been running around my mind. Whenever a new virus emerges in the human species, scientists rush to quickly understand its unique structure and, hopefully, devise a vaccine to counteract, or at least contain, it. In this issue’s cover story, Simon Makin describes what researchers know so far about the structure of coronaviruses and what tools we may have to disable them (see “How Coronaviruses Cause Infection—from Colds to Deadly Pneumonia”). As case numbers pile up in this country and others, epidemiologists must work swiftly. As the queen says: “If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast.”
Elsewhere Nicole Wetsman reports on how social media offers doctors and researchers a new way to share their research findings (see “How Twitter Is Changing Medical Research”). And Heidi Ledford updates readers on the progress of clinical applications of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing complex, some of which are inching closer to real disease treatments (see “Quest to Use CRISPR against Disease Gains Ground”). Curiouser and curiouser.
This article was originally published with the title “Warfare in Wonderland” in SA Health & Medicine 2, 2, (April 2020)