Forbes India – Applying Economics and Game Theory to Evolution May Slow Antibiotic Resistance

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On its own, a hospital may not have a financial incentive to conduct contact tracing, but game theory analysis shows that if every hospital took this extra step, they would all benefit economically from the slowdown in the development of these bacteria..
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Fom antibiotic resistant bacteria and parasites that threaten to undermine global food production, the world is facing a nefarious development that has been accelerated by human behavior.

In a new article published in the journal PLOS Biology, the researchers suggest that to slow this unfavorable development, experts must look at the problem from an economic perspective, by studying human behavior and how behavior changes might. lead to long-term economic benefits.

“Evolution can be speeded up or slowed down by human behavior and, therefore, can be managed,” said David McAdams, economist at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and author of “The Economics of Managing Evolution” .

“Evolution responds to biological changes, but it can also respond to policy changes,” he said. “So we have to think about the theory of evolution while taking into account human behavior or the economy.”

In their research, McAdams and colleagues at Queen’s and Penn State Universities present mathematical formulas for determining when it is economically beneficial to invest in evolutionary management measures, such as when it is beneficial for a farmer to plant intentionally. an unprotected corn crop that will be destroyed. by the corn rootworm.

In the short term, planting this pest sacrifice reduces the farmer’s overall harvest. In the long run, attracting pests to consume unprotected corn could prevent the larvae from becoming immune to the methods used to control it. This means that the current genetic modifications to corn plants that protect against damage from the rootworm could work on the pest for many years, McAdams explained.

Evolution can be speeded up or slowed down by human behavior and, therefore, can be managed.
David McAdams, Fuqua School of Business

Researchers take the mathematical model one step further by implementing game theory, which analyzes how individual decisions are interconnected and how they influence each other, such as how doctors treat superbug infections and whether these infections spread to other patients in a clinic or hospital.

“In the example of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, hospitals could go above and beyond to control the spread of superbugs through methods such as contact tracing,” McAdams said. “It would be an additional cost on their part which does not necessarily provide an immediate benefit. On its own, a hospital might not have the financial incentive to do so, but game theory analysis shows that if every hospital took this extra step, they would all benefit economically from slowing the growth of these bacteria. . Game theory gives you a systematic way to think about these possibilities and maximize overall well-being. “

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[This article has been reproduced with permission from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. This piece originally appeared on Duke Fuqua Insights]


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