Ewald, who has been refining this theory of virulence management for two decades, sees SARS as a test. Not everyone agrees with this approach. James Bull of the University of Texas at Austin is one of the most outspoken critics of virulence management. He notes that there is no evidence of how SARS has adapted and evolved in humans, or if it has changed at all, making virulence management impossible to apply. Bull does see merit in treating only those individuals who are sickest while allowing those with mild symptoms to go untreated, however, based on the notion that having the less virulent strain will be a natural way to immunize people against the nastier virus.
Bull is less hopeful about the immediate role that evolutionary biology can play in the management of SARS. He notes that epidemiologists must address fundamental questions before evolutionary folks can do their job to the fullest. The first priority should be "getting out there, figuring out if there¿s a whole group of people being infected that are asymptomatic," Bull contends. "What are the contacts between these people? What is the rate of transmission? These are the things that will then allow us to get in there and stop this."
Laura Wright is based in New York City.