Local Interactions Select for Lower Pathogen Infectivity

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Science  02 Mar 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5816, pp. 1284-1286
DOI: 10.1126/science.1137126

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Theory suggests that the current rapid increase in connectivity and consequential changes in the structure of human, agricultural, and wildlife populations may select for parasite strains with higher infectivity. We carried out a test of this spatial theory by experimentally altering individual host movement rates in a model host/pathogen system by altering the viscosity of their environment. In our microevolutionary selection experiments, the infectivity of the virus was, as predicted by the theory, reduced in the most viscous populations. We therefore provide empirical support for the theory that population structure affects the evolution of infectious organisms.

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