Author(s): Brown SP, Cornforth DM, Mideo N
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Abstract Standard virulence evolution theory assumes that virulence factors are maintained because they aid parasitic exploitation, increasing growth within and/or transmission between hosts. An increasing number of studies now demonstrate that many opportunistic pathogens (OPs) do not conform to these assumptions, with virulence factors maintained instead because of advantages in non-parasitic contexts. Here we review virulence evolution theory in the context of OPs and highlight the importance of incorporating environments outside a focal virulence site. We illustrate that virulence selection is constrained by correlations between these external and focal settings and pinpoint drivers of key environmental correlations, with a focus on generalist strategies and phenotypic plasticity. We end with a summary of key theoretical and empirical challenges to be met for a fuller understanding of OPs. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
This article was published in Trends Microbiol
and referenced in Journal of Antimicrobial Agents