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Title: Pathogen transmission modes determine contact network structure, altering other pathogen characteristics
Pathogen traits can vary greatly and heavily impact the ability of a pathogen to persist in a population. Although this variation is fundamental to disease ecology, little is known about the evolutionary pressures that drive these differences, particularly where they interact with host behaviour. We hypothesized that host behaviours relevant to different transmission routes give rise to differences in contact network structure, constraining the space over which pathogen traits can evolve to maximize fitness. Our analysis of 232 contact networks across mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, fish and molluscs found that contact network topology varies by contact type, most notably in networks that are representative of fluid-exchange transmission. Using infectious disease model simulations, we showed that these differences in network structure suggest pathogens transmitted through fluid-exchange contact types will need traits associated with high transmissibility to successfully proliferate, compared to pathogens that transmit through other types of contact. These findings were supported through a review of known traits of pathogens that transmit in humans. Our work demonstrates that contact network structure may drive the evolution of compensatory pathogen traits according to transmission strategy, providing essential context for understanding pathogen evolution and ecology.  more » « less
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Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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