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Journal Article

Multiple Infections, Immune Dynamics, and the Evolution of Virulence

Samuel Alizon and Minus van Baalen
The American Naturalist
Vol. 172, No. 4 (October 2008), pp. E150-E168
DOI: 10.1086/590958
Stable URL:
Page Count: 19
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Abstract: Understanding the effect of multiple infections is essential for the prediction (and eventual control) of virulence evolution. Some theoretical studies have considered the possibility that several strains coexist in the same host (coinfection), but few have taken their within‐host dynamics explicitly into account. Here, we develop a nested approach based on a simple model for the interaction of parasite strains with their host’s immune system. We study virulence evolution by linking the within‐host dynamics to an epidemiological framework that incorporates multiple infections. Our model suggests that antigenically similar parasite strains cannot coexist in the long term inside a host. We also find that the optimal level of virulence increases with the efficiency of multiple infections. Finally, we notice that coinfections create heterogeneity in the host population (with susceptible hosts and infected hosts), which can lead to evolutionary branching in the parasite population and the emergence of a hypervirulent parasite strategy. We interpret this result as a parasite specialization to the infectious state of the hosts. Our study has experimental and theoretical implications in a virulence management perspective.

Notes and References

This item contains 77 references.

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