Why “Medical Zoology”?

Nobel laureate Josh Lederberg once wrote,”…during the early acme of microbe hunting, from about 1880 to 1940, microbes were all but ignored by mainstream biologists.   Medical microbiology had a life of its own, but it was almost totally divorced from general biological studies. Pasteur and Koch were scarcely mentioned by the founders of cell biology and genetics. Instead, bacteriology was taught as a specialty in medicine, outside the schools of basic zoology and botany. Conversely, bacteriologists scarcely heard of the conceptual revolutions in genetic and evolutionary theory.”

Dr. Lederberg’s observations for Microbiology turn out to be true for many other -ologies, for example “Medical Entomology” focusing on arthropods that transmit pathogens. In each case, there evolved separate disciplines and practices within those disciplines depending upon the medical relevance and/or applied nature of the research questions.

Medical Zoology is the multidiscipline that knits together those various -ologies that were artificially sundered by dichotomizing applied/basic biology. While zoology is consider by many to be an archaic term, it was in fact once the comprehensive label for all aspects of biology outside the plant kingdom.  Hence, we define Medical Zoology as the multidisciplinary study of zoonotic disease, i.e. those caused by pathogens that are reservoired in wild populations but spill over into human populations.  These diseases present major challenges to public health across the globe, and their complex nature–involving arthropod vectors, wild vertebrate reservoirs, human hosts and all their associated physiologies, immunologies, genetics, ecologies, etc.–requires multidisciplinary cogitation.