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Biological and biomedical implications of the co-evolution of pathogens and their hosts

Nature Genetics volume 32, pages 569577 (2002) | Download Citation

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Abstract

Co-evolution between host and pathogen is, in principle, a powerful determinant of the biology and genetics of infection and disease. Yet co-evolution has proven difficult to demonstrate rigorously in practice, and co-evolutionary thinking is only just beginning to inform medical or veterinary research in any meaningful way, even though it can have a major influence on how genetic variation in biomedically important traits is interpreted. Improving our understanding of the biomedical significance of co-evolution will require changing the way in which we look for it, complementing the phenomenological approach traditionally favored by evolutionary biologists with the exploitation of the extensive data becoming available on the molecular biology and molecular genetics of host–pathogen interactions.

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Acknowledgements

We thank A. Read, L. Taylor, D. Haydon, M. Charleston, R. Phillips, C. Davies, P. Goulder, C. Lively and E. Baranowski for comments and discussion and gratefully acknowledge support from the Wellcome Trust, the Leverhulme Trust, the Royal Society, Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnologia and Fundacion R Areces.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Centre for Infectious Diseases, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Easter Bush, Roslin, Midlothian EH25 9RG, UK.

    • Mark E. J. Woolhouse
  2. Peter Medawar Building for Pathogen Research, University of Oxford and Department of Zoology, Oxford, UK.

    • Joanne P. Webster
  3. Centro de Biologia Molecular, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Cantoblanco, Madrid, Spain.

    • Esteban Domingo
  4. Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, King's Buildings, Edinburgh, UK.

    • Brian Charlesworth
  5. Department of Biology, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

    • Bruce R. Levin

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Mark E. J. Woolhouse.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/ng1202-569