The coevolution of virulence: Tolerance in perspective

Tom J. Little, David M. Shuker, Nick Colegrave, Troy Day, Andrea L. Graham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Coevolutionary interactions, such as those between host and parasite, predator and prey, or plant and pollinator, evolve subject to the genes of both interactors. It is clear, for example, that the evolution of pollination strategies can only be understood with knowledge of both the pollinator and the pollinated. Studies of the evolution of virulence, the reduction in host fitness due to infection, have nonetheless tended to focus on parasite evolution. Host-centric approaches have also been proposed-for example, under the rubric of "tolerance", the ability of hosts to minimize virulence without necessarily minimizing parasite density. Within the tolerance framework, however, there is room for more comprehensive measures of host fitness traits, and for fuller consideration of the consequences of coevolution. For example, the evolution of tolerance can result in changed selection on parasite populations, which should provoke parasite evolution despite the fact that tolerance is not directly antagonistic to parasite fitness. As a result, consideration of the potential for parasite counter-adaptation to host tolerance-whether evolved or medially manipulated-is essential to the emergence of a cohesive theory of biotic partnerships and robust disease control strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01006
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Virology
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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