…the Chikungunya virus might have something to say about that (if it could speak). From PLoS Pathogens:
Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an emerging arbovirus associated with several recent large-scale epidemics of arthritic disease, including one on Reunion island, where there were approximately 266,000 cases (34% of the total island population). CHIKV is transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes, primarily Ae. aegypti. However, the 2005-2006 CHIKV epidemic on Reunion island was unusual because the vector responsible for transmission between humans was apparently the Asian tiger mosquito, Ae. albopictus. Interestingly, the same epidemic was associated with a strain of CHIKV with a mutation in the envelope protein gene (E1-A226V). In this work we investigated the role of the E1-A226V mutation on the fitness of CHIKV in Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus mosquitoes. We found that E1-A226V is directly responsible for CHIKV adaptation to Ae. albopictus mosquitoes, which provides a plausible explanation of how this mutant virus caused an epidemic in a region lacking the typical vector. This research gives a new insight into how a simple genetic change in a human pathogen can increase its host range and therefore its geographic distribution. Ae. albopictus is abundant and widely distributed in urban areas of Europe and the United States of America, and this work suggests that these areas are now vulnerable to CHIKV establishment.
Let’s just try to ignore that last sentence. Onto the creationists. One common creationist argument is that mutation can’t be responsible for adaptive change because mutations are always harmful or cause of loss of function. The unspoken, illogical corollary stemming from this discipline of Vichy science is that God must therefore create things and not evolution. Nuts, but people really do walk among us who
thinkengage in non-random neurological activity like this.
What this article suggests is that the species range of the Chikungunya virus has increased due to a…mutation. It doesn’t seem to have significantly affected the novel virus’ ability to infect the original mosquito host either.
But what do these authors know? They’re just biologists.
Citation: Tsetsarkin KA, Vanlandingham DL, McGee CE, Higgs S (2007) A Single Mutation in Chikungunya Virus Affects Vector Specificity and Epidemic Potential. PLoS Pathog 3(12): e201 doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.0030201