The evolution of resistance through costly acquired immunity

Abstract

We examine the evolutionary dynamics of resistance to parasites through acquired immunity. Resistance can be achieved through the innate mechanisms of avoidance of infection and reduced pathogenicity once infected, through recovery from infection and through remaining immune to infection: acquired immunity. We assume that each of these mechanisms is costly to the host and find that the evolutionary dynamics of innate immunity in hosts that also have acquired immunity are quantitatively the same as in hosts that possess only innate immunity. However, compared with resistance through avoidance or recovery, there is less likely to be polymorphism in the length of acquired immunity within populations. Long–lived organisms that can recover at intermediate rates faced with fast–transmitting pathogens that cause intermediate pathogenicity (mortality of infected individuals) are most likely to evolve long–lived acquired immunity. Our work emphasizes that because whether or not acquired immunity is beneficial depends on the characteristics of the disease, organisms may be selected to only develop acquired immunity to some of the diseases that they encounter.