Publication details

Evolution of infection avoidance in populations affected by sexually transmitted infections



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Theoretical Ecology
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords Adaptive dynamics; Mating preferences; Infection visibility; Sexually transmitted disease; Reproduction-transmission consistency
Description Infectious diseases affect many populations and it should be natural to avoid contacts with infected individuals to prevent contagion. Recognizability of infected individuals is essential for infection avoidance. In the case of sexually transmitted infections, such avoidance is accomplished by choosing a healthy mating partner. We find that different mating strategies arise as a consequence of evolution of infection avoidance. Considering infection avoidance as host willingness to accept infection risk upon encountering a potential yet infected mating partner, we show that evolutionary bistability occurs: either no avoidance evolves or a degree of avoidance is attained at which the host population ends up disease-free. In the latter case, evolutionary suicide may even occur so that the host population goes extinct. Infection avoidance may also be driven by a degree of infection visibility and therefore thought of as a parasite trait. In that case, parasite crypticity (and hence no avoidance) evolves provided there is no cost on the degree of infection (non-)visibility. Considering a virulence-visibility trade-off leads to parasite crypticity, too, and no virulence. On the other hand, an intermediate degree of infection visibility becomes an evolutionary attractor if a transmissibility-visibility trade-off is adopted, or when the transmissibility-visibility trade-off and the virulence-visibility trade-off act simultaneously.
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