ing over 4 million animals to control the disease.3 Prevention and suppression of FMD and other, similarly infectious pathogens depends on early detection, quarantine, and/or destruction of disease carriers. The rapid remote sensing of such animals could help prevent or reduce the negative impact of these diseases.
Using techniques related to speech recognition, mathematicians have worked to map the genetic similarity of influenza viruses. Using color and spatial distribution, subtle evolved differences in virus strains can be identified, and decisions about the potential effectiveness of vaccines become easier (Enserink, 2008). Obviously both symptom recognition and pathogen strain identification are also very useful in the defense against any man-made biological.
Historically, vaccination, simple sanitation and the availability of clean drinking water were perhaps the most important developments in disease prevention. However, these methods are useful only for preventing infectious disease, and we are discovering their limitations and drawbacks. Prevention of disease, especially noninfectious disease, remains a critical issue.
The impact of fetal nutrition on adult susceptibility to obesity points to the potential benefit of better understanding the sources and causes of noninfectious disease. As these causes are found, we can more easily identify and treat individuals most likely to develop a disease. Doing so entails both a deeper understanding of the biology of disease inception and the physical science of detecting susceptibility.
Beyond detection of susceptibility, however, is the need to understand how conclusions drawn from populations translate to therapy for individuals. Here is the greatest need for personalized medicine—that is, diagnosis and treatment tailored to a person’s genetic makeup and potentially to environmental differences as well. Personalized medicine in simple forms is already used—if a breast cancer patient’s tumor is estrogen-receptor positive, then the patient may benefit from treatment with tamoxifen, which prevents estrogen from binding to the receptor and stimulating growth.
In the future, analysis of an individual’s gene expression patterns using microarrays or even sequencing of his or her entire genome, which will require enormous advances in chemistry and engineering, should allow physicians to diagnose and treat disease with greater accuracy. A greater understanding of the DNA sequence changes that impact protein-coding or RNA-coding should also allow these processes to be mathematically modeled.
Information from “Farm incomes in the United Kingdom 2001/2002.” Available at https://statistics.defra.gov.uk/esg/publications/fiuk/2002/FIUK_complete.pdf. Accessed January 28, 2009.