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Food Webs in the Human Body: Linking Ecological Theory to Viral Dynamics

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Title: Food Webs in the Human Body: Linking Ecological Theory to Viral Dynamics
Author: Murall, Carmen Lía; McCann, Kevin S.; Bauch, Chris T.
Abstract: The dynamics of in-host infections are central to predicting the progression of natural infections and the effectiveness of drugs or vaccines, however, they are not well understood. Here, we apply food web theory to in-host disease networks of the human body that are structured similarly to food web models that treat both predation and competition simultaneously. We show that in-host trade-offs, an under-studied aspect of disease ecology, are fundamental to understanding the outcomes of competing viral strains under differential immune responses. Further, and importantly, our analysis shows that the outcome of competition between virulent and non-virulent strains can be highly contingent on the abiotic conditions prevailing in the human body. These results suggest the alarming idea that even subtle behavioral changes that alter the human body (e.g. weight gain, smoking) may switch the environmental conditions in a manner that suddenly allows a virulent strain to dominate and replace less virulent strains. These ecological results therefore cast new light on the control of disease in the human body, and highlight the importance of longitudinal empirical studies across host variation gradients, as well as, of studies focused on delineating life history trade-offs within hosts.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10214/14234
Date: 2012
Rights: Attribution
Rights Holder: Copyright 2012 Murall et al.
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Citation: Murall, C. L., McCann, K. S., Bauch, C. T. (2012). Food Webs in the Human Body: Linking Ecological Theory to Viral Dynamics. PLoS ONE 7(11): e48812. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0048812


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