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J Theor Biol. 2006 Jun 7;240(3):353-9. Epub 2005 Nov 8.

Information catastrophe in RNA viruses through replication thresholds.

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ICREA-Complex Systems Lab, Universitat Pompeu Fabra (GRIB), Dr Aiguader 80, 08003 Barcelona, Spain.


RNA viruses are known to replicate at very high mutation rates. These rates are actually known to be close to their so-called error threshold. This threshold is in fact a critical point beyond which genetic information is lost through a so-called error catastrophe. However, the transition from a stable quasispecies to genetic drift and loss of information can also occur by crossing replication thresholds, below some replication rates, the viral population is suddenly unable to survive. Available data from hepatitis C virus population analysis [Mas, A., Ulloa, E., Bruguera, M., Furcić, I., Garriga, D., Fábregas, S., Andreu, D., Saiz, J.C., Díez, J., 2004. Hepatitis C virus population analysis of a single-source nosocomial outbreak reveals an inverse correlation between viral load and quasispecies complexity. J. Gen. Virol. 85, 3619-3626] can be interpreted through this theoretical view, providing evidence for such a replication threshold. Here a simple model is used in order to provide evidence for such a phenomenon, consistent with available data.

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