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An Evolutionary Perspective on Vector-Borne Diseases

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Review

An Evolutionary Perspective on Vector-Borne Diseases

Jeffrey R Powell. Front Genet.

Abstract

Several aspects of the biology of the three players in a vector-borne disease that affect their evolutionary interactions are outlined. A model of the origin of a human-human cycle of vector-borne diseases is presented emphasizing the narrowing of the niche experienced by the pathogen and vector. Variation in the expected rates of evolution of the three players is discussed with the rapid rate of pathogen evolution providing them with advantages. Population sizes and fluctuations also affect the three players in very different ways. The time since the origin of a vector-borne disease likely determines how stable the interactions are and thus how easily the disease might be eliminated. Stability and variation are also linked. Human technological advances are rapidly upsetting the previously relatively slow coevolutionary adjustment of the three players. Finally, it is pointed out that development of quantitative coevolutionary models specifically addressing details of vector-borne diseases is needed to identify parameters most likely to break transmission cycles and thus control or eliminate diseases.

Keywords: evolution; genetics; mosquitoes; pathogens; vector-borne diseases.

Figures

Figure 1
Figure 1
Schematic model of origin of human-human vector-borne disease.
Figure 2
Figure 2
Relative rates of evolution of pathogens, vectors, and vertebrate hosts. (A) Natural situation. (B) Effect of human culture and technology.
Figure 3
Figure 3
Population dynamics of a plasmodium infection. Yellow circles are estimated numbers at each stage. From Sindon (2017) with permission.

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