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Revista de Saúde Pública

On-line version ISSN 1518-8787Print version ISSN 0034-8910


GIORGIO, Selma. A modern view of the evolution of virulence. Rev. Saúde Pública [online]. 1995, vol.29, n.5, pp.398-402. ISSN 1518-8787.

According to the prevailing, traditional view parasites should develop reduced virulence towards their hosts, because more virulent pathogens are more likelyto drive the hosts, and thus themselves to extinction. Virulence is considered to be a primitive stage of a parasitive-host association. However the usefulness and validity of this view have been questioned. Recent studies suggest that parasites need not necessarily evolve towards reduced virulence. The points of view of Darwinian medicine in the direction of the evolution of virulence there may be many possible revolutionary trajectories, depending on the details of the parasite's life-history, the host's behavior and the transmissibility of the parasite. Theoretical and epidemiological evidences indicate that pathogens transmitted by arthropod vectors are significantly more lethal to humans than those transmitted by personal contac. Water borne enteric pathogens are less virulent after purification of water supplies. Recent experiments also support the emerging theory that parasitism can evolve to be either more or less virulent in a long-term host, depending on the way the parasite is transmitted to the host and on the environment in which they live.

Keywords : Virulence; Host-parasite relations; Evolution; Disease transmission.

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