Evolution of bacterial virulence

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Bacterial virulence is highly dynamic and context-dependent. For this reason, it is challenging to predict how molecular changes affect the growth of a pathogen in a host and its spread in host population. Two schools of thought have taken quite different directions to decipher the underlying principles of bacterial virulence. While molecular infection biology is focusing on the basic mechanisms of the pathogen-host interaction, evolution biology takes virulence as one of several parameters affecting pathogen spread in a host population. We review both approaches and discuss how they can complement each other in order to obtain a comprehensive understanding of bacterial virulence, its emergence, maintenance and evolution.

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