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Proc Biol Sci. 2007 Jul 22;274(1619):1715-21.

Host community structure and the maintenance of pathogen diversity.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3PS, UK.


Community structure has been widely identified as a feature of many real-world networks. It has been shown that the antigenic diversity of a pathogen population can be significantly affected by the contact network of its hosts; however, the effects of community structure have not yet been explored. Here, we examine the congruence between patterns of antigenic diversity in pathogen populations in neighbouring communities, using both a deterministic metapopulation model and individual-based formulations. We show that the spatial differentiation of the pathogen population can only be maintained at levels of coupling far lower than that necessary for the host populations to remain distinct. Therefore, identifiable community structure in host networks may not reflect differentiation of the processes occurring upon them and, conversely, a lack of genetic differentiation between pathogens from different host communities may not reflect strong mixing between them.

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