Body by Darwin: How Evolution Transforms Our Health and Shapes Medicine
University of Chicago Press, £22.50
Why does the human body rarely dislodge established infections of helminth worms? Why are about 30% of embryos lost before implantation and a further 30% lost in the first six weeks of gestation?
As Body by Darwin explains, some apparent body malfunctions are actually vital adaptations. The aggressive immune response needed to clear a worm infection would do more damage to the body than the worms do, and the body must screen embryos to ensure they are viable and don't, for example, have chromosomal abnormalities.
Alongside the fascinating science, Taylor covers the possibilities for new treatments that evolutionary medicine can offer. The importance of the topics covered is brought home by stories of patients. This book is packed with scientific detail and will be of interest to anyone who has ever asked themselves why our bodies can be so susceptible to illnesses.
Dr Rebecca Nesbit MRSB