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The effect of disease life history on the evolutionary emergence of novel pathogens

Summary: The effect of disease life history on the
evolutionary emergence of novel pathogens
Jean-Baptiste Andre´1,* and Troy Day2
Department of Biology, and 2
Departments of Mathematics/Statistics and Biology, Queen's University,
Kingston, ON, Canada K7L3N6
We present a general analytical result for the probability that a newly introduced pathogen will evolve
adaptations that allow it to maintain itself within any novel host population, as a function of disease life-
history parameters. We demonstrate that this probability of `evolutionary emergence' depends on two key
properties of the disease life history: (i) the basic reproduction number and (ii) the expected duration of an
infection. These parameters encapsulate all of the relevant information and can be combined in a very
simple expression, with estimates for the rates of adaptive mutation, to predict the probability of
emergence for any novel pathogen. In general, diseases that initially have a large reproductive number
and/or that cause relatively long infections are the most prone to evolutionary adaptation.
Keywords: evolution; pathogens; emerging diseases; branching process; invasion; adaptation
The majority of existing human infectious diseases have
originated from other animals, from the beginning of
domestication up until the present time (Diamond 1997;


Source: André, Jean-Baptiste - CNRS & Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie, Paris 6
Day, Troy - Departments of Mathematics and Statistics & Biology, Queen's University (Kingston)


Collections: Biology and Medicine; Environmental Sciences and Ecology