Credit: William Jacobs, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

Tuberculosis bacterium
The battles that scientists wage against bacteria and viruses resemble chess matches between grandmasters and supercomputers. Highly intelligent people are pitted against entities that aren't conscious but that nevertheless hold two big advantages. Populated by hosts of individually sensitive microchips or microorganisms, these entities can react with lightning speed. And tutored intensively by computer programmers or the demands of natural selection, they can respond devastatingly to opponents' moves.

Just as IBM's Deep Blue beat then-world chess champ Garry Kasparov in 1997, pathogens such as HIV and antibiotic-resistant bacteria have lately been prevailing against the best-laid plans to eradicate them. In response, scientists have been turning to the newest molecular, biochemical, and genetic techniques. This shift was evident at a Nov. 9 symposium at Rockefeller University in New York titled "Infectious Disease and Antibiotic Resistance in the Postgenomic Era." Since its...

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