, Volume 2, Issue 1, pp 1-30

Transmission modes and the evolution of virulence

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Application of evolutionary principles to epidemiological problems indicates that cultural characteristics influence the evolution of parasite virulence by influencing the success of disease transmission from immobilized, infected hosts. This hypothesis is supported by positive correlations between virulence and transmission by biological vectors, water, and institutional attendants. The general evolutionary argument is then applied to the causes and consequences of increased virulence for three diseases: cholera, influenza and AIDS.

The research was supported by an NSF/NATO postdoctoral fellowship and, from Amherst College, a Miner D. Crary Fellowship, a Trustees Faculty Fellowship, and a Faculty Research Award. The manuscript was improved by input from W. B. Greenough III, L. Weiss, B. Walther, D. I. Ratner, and K. Kiang.
Paul W. Ewald is Associate Professor of Biology at Amherst College. His research interests include experimental studies of evolutionary and ecological aspects of aggression and dominance in birds and mammals as well as host-parasite coevolution with an emphasis on human and insect hosts.