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Genetic differences in host infectivity affect disease spread and survival in epidemics

By Osvaldo Anacleto, Santiago Cabaleiro, Beatriz Villanueva, MarĂ­a Saura, Ross D. Houston, John A. Woolliams, Andrea B. Doeschl-Wilson

Posted 30 Nov 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/483602 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-40567-w)

Survival during an epidemic is partly determined by host genetics. While quantitative genetic studies typically consider survival as an indicator for disease resistance (an individuals propensity to avoid becoming infected or diseased), mortality rates of populations undergoing an epidemic are also affected by endurance (the propensity of diseased individual to survive the infection) and infectivity (i.e. the propensity of an infected individual to transmit disease). Few studies have demonstrated genetic variation in disease endurance, and no study has demonstrated genetic variation in host infectivity, despite strong evidence for considerable phenotypic variation in this trait. Here we propose an experimental design and statistical models for estimating genetic diversity in all three host traits. Using an infection model in fish we provide, for the first time, direct evidence for genetic variation in host infectivity, in addition to variation in resistance and endurance. We also demonstrate how genetic differences in these three traits contribute to survival. Our results imply that animals can evolve different disease response types affecting epidemic survival rates, with important implications for understanding and controlling epidemics.

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