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. Diseases Only Share Hosts With Close Relatives

A diseased cell
by Staff Writers
Bloomington IN (SPX) Jun 26, 2006
Being more generous to close relatives is a common theme in both our daily interactions and our understanding of how organisms resolve conflicts in nature. In a paper from July issue of The American Naturalist, biologists Britt Koskella (Indiana University), Tatiana Giraud (Universite Paris-Sud), and Michael Hood (University of Virginia) asked whether similar rules apply to disease-causing microbes.

They tried introducing a sexually-transmitted disease of plants, called "anther smut," into hosts that were already infected, and found that strains are more likely to share a host if they are more closely related.

In this way "pathogens seem to interact as we would," says Koskella, "sharing resources with close relatives and being more competitive towards non-relatives."

According to current evolutionary theory, the competition among pathogen strains determines why some diseases cause very severe symptoms, "so it is crucial to understand when and how this competition occurs within the hosts," adds Koskella.

To win host resources away from a non-relative, theory assumes the pathogens will increase exploitation of the host and thus cause more severe symptoms. However, if pathogens share the host most often with close relatives, this evolutionary conflict is decreased, possibly resulting in less harm by overexploitation. Such new insights into how pathogens interact within the host are needed to better understand and confront the harmful effects of diseases.

Related Links
Indiana University
Universite Paris-Sud
University of Virginia

Global Center Urged To Fight Pandemics
Washington (UPI) Jun 13, 2006
Vastly increased international cooperation will be necessary to prevent and contain the threats of future pandemic diseases, experts say. Though avian flu hasn't materialized yet into a human pandemic, it has alerted scientists to that fact that any pandemic is a security threat that needs to be treated as such.

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