The evolutionary race between COVID-19 and humans: Will there be one winner?

An evolutionary approach to the pandemic is made to understand the strategies of the viral pathogen and the human host, and the coevolutionary interactions between them. 

Arms race

Watch Prof Ranganath, Former Vice Chancellor, Bangalore University, and Former Director, National Assessment & Accreditation Council (NAAC), and a recipient of the prestigious Sunder Lal Hora Medal (2020), speak about the players in the arms race’ – humans and the SARS-CoV‑2, the virus that caused COVID-19. He is introduced by Prof Harini Nagendra.

Evolution need not be taught from history anymore but on an everyday basis, from what one is witnessing live, says Prof H A Ranganath, about the COVID-19 virus and its numerous variants that have been involved in a battle with humankind for some time now. 

From affecting their social behaviour, pyshological wellbeing and cultural practices, a lot has changed for human beings with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has brought about challenges for social systems across the globe. And amidst this, one needs to be careful in formalising a policy for teaching and learning by looking at these changes.

He then goes on to explain how one needs to know evolutionary biology to understand the human response to the pandemic. Antagonistic interactions among species are an important facet of population ecology and evolutionary biology. 

One may wonder how humans managed to impede the growth of the virus. The answer lies in Memory Immune Responses. Prof Ranganath also speaks about mutations and their varied roles while highlighting how there are still doubts about the evolution of the virus. He talks about how modeling SARS-CoV‑2 is currently challenging because of lack of crucial information. 

He quotes the Red Queen theory, we need to run faster just to keep pace with the virus, and even faster if we have to overcome it’, and emphasises the need to have trustworthy collaborations between researchers and policymakers to evolve a strategy to save mankind.

So, what is the outcome of the race between humans and the virus? He quotes Darwin, In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed,’ thus leaving a hint for both human beings as well as the virus.