Royal Society Publishing

Virulence evolution in a virus obeys a trade off

Sharon L. Messenger , Ian J. Molineux , J. J. Bull


The evolution of virulence was studied in a virus subjected to alternating episodes of vertical and horizontal transmission. Bacteriophage f1 was used as the parasite because it establishes a debilitating but non–fatal infection that can be transmitted vertically (from a host to its progeny) as well as horizontally (infection of new hosts). Horizontal transmission was required of all phage at specific intervals, but was prevented otherwise. Each episode of horizontal transmission was followed by an interval of obligate vertical transmission, followed by an interval of obligate horizontal transmission etc. The duration of vertical transmission was eight times longer per episode in one treatment than in the other, thus varying the relative intensity of selection against virulence while maintaining selection for some level of virus production. Viral lines with the higher enforced rate of infectious transmission evolved higher virulence and higher rates of virus production. These results support the trade–off model for the evolution of virulence.

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