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Trends Ecol Evol. 2013 Oct;28(10):592-6. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2013.07.002. Epub 2013 Aug 20.

Generalism and the evolution of parasite virulence.

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Department of Zoology, Oxford University, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK; Biosciences, University of Exeter, Cornwall Campus, Penryn, TR10 9EZ, UK. Electronic address:


The evolution of parasite-imposed host harm (virulence) will be affected by numerous factors, not least the range of hosts that parasites can infect. Here, we consider four ways that parasite host range (generalism) might directly affect observed levels of parasite virulence: costs of generalism, multiplicity of infection, maladaptive virulence, and host availability. Integrating parasite infectivity range with life-history evolution will generate novel general hypotheses for the evolutionary ecology of virulence, as well as explicit predictions about the virulence of emerging diseases resulting from host shifts.

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