Caister Academic Press

The Population Genetics and Epidemiology of Human Viral Pathogens

Fernando González Candelas and Rafael Sanjuán
from: Microbial Population Genetics (Edited by: Jianping Xu). Caister Academic Press, U.K. (2010)

Abstract

Many viral pathogens, especially those with an RNA genome, are characterized by their high mutation rates and large population sizes. These features are responsible for the high levels of genetic variation usually found in viral populations and for their rapid response to different selective challenges encountered during their infection and transmission processes. They are quantitatively and qualitatively so different from most other organisms that special models and concepts, such as the quasispecies model, have been developed to better describe the evolutionary dynamics of viral populations. Here, we review these and other salient features of viral pathogens, with a species emphasis on RNA viruses. We describe how population genetics theory provides an adequate frame-work for analyzing and interpreting genetic variation in viral populations, for understanding their dynamics, and to study adaptive processes occurring therein. However, not all the evolutionary changes observed are due to the action of positive selection and this is not an all-mighty agent of evolutionary change. We finish this review by introducing a recently developed framework for integrating the evolutionary and epidemic behavior of infectious organisms, known as phylodynamics, which is especially well-suited for fast evolving organisms such as viruses read more ...
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