Best A & Hoyle A (2013) A limited host immune range facilitates the creation and maintenance of diversity in parasite virulence. Interface Focus, 3 (6), Art. No.: 20130024. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsfs.2013.0024
A vast theoretical literature has explored the evolutionary dynamics of parasite virulence. The classic result from this modelling work is that, assuming a saturating transmission–virulence trade-off, there is a single evolutionary optimum where the parasite optimizes the epidemiological R0. However, there are an increasing number of models that have shown how ecological and epidemiological feedbacks to evolution can instead result in the creation and maintenance of multiple parasite strains. Here, we fully explore one such example, where recovered hosts have a limited ‘immune range’ resulting in partial cross-immunity to parasite strains that they have not previously encountered. Taking an adaptive dynamics approach, we show that, provided this immune range is not too wide, high levels of diversity can evolve and be maintained through multiple branching events. We argue that our model provides a more realistic picture of disease dynamics in vertebrate host populations and may be a key explanatory factor in the high levels of parasite diversity seen in natural systems.
host–parasite; acquired immunity; virulence; evolution
Interface Focus: Volume 3, Issue 6