Stochastic extinction and the selection of the transmission mode in microparasites.
ABSTRACT: Stochastic fluctuations in the transmission process of microparasites generate a risk of parasite extinction that cannot be assessed by deterministic models, especially in host populations of small size. While this risk of extinction represents a strong selection pressure for microparasites, it is usually not clearly separated from the deterministic ones. We suggest here that this stochastic selection pressure can affect the selection of the transmission mode of microparasites. To avoid extinction, parasites should maximize their inter-population transmission to ensure frequent reintroductions. Since the types of contacts may differ if congeners belong to the same or distinct populations, strains that are mainly transmitted through inter-population contacts might be selected. To examine this assumption, we analyse the issue of the competition between two strains differing in their transmission mode using a stochastic metapopulation model in which hosts may display different behaviours inside and outside their populations. We show that stochastic selection pressures may drive parasite evolution towards a transmission mode that maximizes the persistence of the parasite. We study the conditions under which stochastic selection pressures may surpass the deterministic ones. Our results are illustrated by the cases of feline immunodeficiency virus in cats and of sexually transmitted diseases in mammals.
PROVIDER: S-EPMC2607425 | BioStudies |