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Trends Microbiol. 2012 Jul;20(7):336-42. doi: 10.1016/j.tim.2012.04.005. Epub 2012 May 5.

Evolution of virulence in opportunistic pathogens: generalism, plasticity, and control.

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1
Centre for Immunity, Infection, and Evolution, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, West Mains Road, Edinburgh EH9 3JT, UK. sam.brown@ed.ac.uk

Abstract

Standard virulence evolution theory assumes that virulence factors are maintained because they aid parasitic exploitation, increasing growth within and/or transmission between hosts. An increasing number of studies now demonstrate that many opportunistic pathogens (OPs) do not conform to these assumptions, with virulence factors maintained instead because of advantages in non-parasitic contexts. Here we review virulence evolution theory in the context of OPs and highlight the importance of incorporating environments outside a focal virulence site. We illustrate that virulence selection is constrained by correlations between these external and focal settings and pinpoint drivers of key environmental correlations, with a focus on generalist strategies and phenotypic plasticity. We end with a summary of key theoretical and empirical challenges to be met for a fuller understanding of OPs.

PMID:
22564248
PMCID:
PMC3491314
DOI:
10.1016/j.tim.2012.04.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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