Biology as Poetry: Microbiology

Bacteriophage Ecology Group


The capacity for a parasite/pathogen to cause disease.

The extent of disease caused upon infection (or infestation) by a parasite/pathogen is a function of parasite characteristics, host characteristics, and environmental concerns. A parasite's virulence takes into account all of these factors.

In evolutionary terms, virulence can be measured as decreases in host Darwinian fitness that is associated parasite/pathogen exposure. In addition, to the extent that virulence can vary among parasite genotypes – and generally it can vary a lot – then parasite virulence is a selectable trait, with virulence optima typically thought to be those which maximize parasite transmission rates to new hosts.


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