Applying population-genetic models in theoretical evolutionary epidemiology




Much of the existing theory for the evolutionary biology of infectious diseases uses an invasion analysis approach. In this Ideas and Perspectives article, we suggest that techniques from theoretical population genetics can also be profitably used to study the evolutionary epidemiology of infectious diseases. We highlight four ways in which population-genetic models provide benefits beyond those provided by most invasion analyses: (i) they can make predictions about the rate of pathogen evolution; (ii) they explicitly draw out the mechanistic way in which the epidemiological dynamics feed into evolutionary change, and thereby provide new insights into pathogen evolution; (iii) they can make predictions about the evolutionary consequences of non-equilibrium epidemiological dynamics; (iv) they can readily incorporate the effects of multiple host dynamics, and thereby account for phenomena such as immunological history and/or host co-evolution.