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Parasitology. 1995;111 Suppl:S15-31.

Evolutionary pressures in the spread and persistence of infectious agents in vertebrate populations.

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Department of Zoology, University of Oxford.


Infectious agents have considerable potential to regulate or constrain the population growth of vertebrate hosts in natural habitats. A broad theoretical framework provides many insights into how the biology of the parasite and the demography of the host interact to determine this impact. It may manifest itself as a steady influence over time via stable endemic infection or in a recurrent epidemic fashion, sometimes with unpredictable intervals between epidemics depending on the generation time of the pathogen (time from infection to recovery or host death), its ability to induce lasting immunity and the population growth rate of the host species. Building on these notions, the paper focuses on recent work on the population dynamics of genetically variable pathogen populations and examines the factors that determine the evolution of virulence and the maintenance of genetic diversity in both host and pathogen. Recent research extends conventional theoretical templates to include population genetic elements and the within-host dynamics of the parasite and its interaction with the vertebrate immune system.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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