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Theor Popul Biol. 2006 Mar;69(2):145-53. Epub 2005 Sep 29.

Evolution of virulence: interdependence, constraints, and selection using nested models.

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  • 1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 569 Dabney Hall, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 37996-1610, USA.


Natural selection acts on virus populations at two distinct but interrelated levels: within individual hosts and between them. Studies of the evolution of virulence typically focus on selection acting at the epidemiological or between-host level and demonstrate the importance of trade-offs between disease transmission and virulence rates. Within-host studies reach similar conclusions regarding trade-offs between transmission and virulence at the level of individual cells. Studies which examine selection at both scales assume that between- and within-host selection are necessarily in conflict. We explicitly examine these ideas and assumptions using a model of within-host viral dynamics nested within a model of between-host disease dynamics. Our approach allows us to evaluate the direction of selection at the within- and between-host levels and identify situations leading to conflict and accord between the two levels of selection.

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