Plasticity in parasite phenotypes: evolutionary and ecological implications for disease

Nicole Mideo, Sarah Reece

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Preventing disease is a major goal of applied bioscience and explaining variation in the harm caused by parasites, and their infectiousness, are major goals of evolutionary biology. The emerging field of evolutionary medicine integrates these two ambitions to inform the development of control strategies that retard or withstand unfavorable parasite evolution. However, as parasites live in hostile and changeable environments – the bodies of other organisms – the success of integrating evolutionary biology with medicine requires a better understanding of how natural selection has solved the problems parasites face. There is increasing appreciation that natural selection shapes parasite strategies to survive in the host and transmit between hosts through facultative (plastic) shifts in parasite traits expressed during infections and in different hosts. This article describes how integrating parasite plasticity into biomedical thinking is central to explaining disease outcomes and transmission patterns, as well as predicting the success of control measures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-24
JournalFuture Microbiology
Volume7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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