Chapter 1 : Evolution of Bacterial-Host Interactions: Virulence and the Immune Overresponse

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This chapter focuses on aspects of the evolution of the bacterium-host interactions that cannot be readily accounted for by simple, advantage-to-the individual evolutionary scenarios. It discusses how the perversity of the immune system fits with current hypotheses for the evolution of virulence and the evolution of the so-called virulence factors, and speculates on the reasons natural selection has failed to or is unable to blunt the immune overresponse to bacterial infections. The chapter provides a brief discussion of the implications of this perspective on virulence for the treatment of bacterial infections. A section discusses how the observation that morbidity and mortality of bacterial infections can be attributed to the hosts’ immune overresponse fits each of these hypotheses for the evolution of the virulence of bacteria. The conventional wisdom is an observation rather than a mechanism, an observation that focuses on the interactions between bacteria and the individual hosts they colonize. Reasonable candidates for coincidental virulence due to an immune overresponse are diseases associated with Helicobacter pylori. As a consequence of their vastly shorter generation times, haploid genomes, and propensity to receive genes and pathogenicity islands by horizontal transfer, it seems reasonable to assume that bacteria would have an edge in an evolutionary arms race with their mammal hosts.

Citation: Margolis E, Levin B. 2008. Evolution of Bacterial-Host Interactions: Virulence and the Immune Overresponse, p 3-12. In Baquero F, Nombela C, Cassell G, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J (ed), Evolutionary Biology of Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815639.ch1
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Table 1.

Some examples of virulence resulting from an immune overresponse

Citation: Margolis E, Levin B. 2008. Evolution of Bacterial-Host Interactions: Virulence and the Immune Overresponse, p 3-12. In Baquero F, Nombela C, Cassell G, Gutiérrez-Fuentes J (ed), Evolutionary Biology of Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555815639.ch1

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