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  1. Pascual, Mercedes (Ed.)
    To study viral evolutionary processes within patients, mathematical models have been instrumental. Yet, the need for stochastic simulations of minority mutant dynamics can pose computational challenges, especially in heterogeneous systems where very large and very small sub-populations coexist. Here, we describe a hybrid stochastic-deterministic algorithm to simulate mutant evolution in large viral populations, such as acute HIV-1 infection, and further include the multiple infection of cells. We demonstrate that the hybrid method can approximate the fully stochastic dynamics with sufficient accuracy at a fraction of the computational time, and quantify evolutionary end points that cannot be expressed by deterministic models, such as the mutant distribution or the probability of mutant existence at a given infected cell population size. We apply this method to study the role of multiple infection and intracellular interactions among different virus strains (such as complementation and interference) for mutant evolution. Multiple infection is predicted to increase the number of mutants at a given infected cell population size, due to a larger number of infection events. We further find that viral complementation can significantly enhance the spread of disadvantageous mutants, but only in select circumstances: it requires the occurrence of direct cell-to-cell transmission through virological synapses, asmore »well as a substantial fitness disadvantage of the mutant, most likely corresponding to defective virus particles. This, however, likely has strong biological consequences because defective viruses can carry genetic diversity that can be incorporated into functional virus genomes via recombination. Through this mechanism, synaptic transmission in HIV might promote virus evolvability.« less
  2. Epidemiological data about SARS-CoV-2 spread indicate that the virus is not transmitted uniformly in the population. The transmission tends to be more effective in select settings that involve exposure to relatively high viral dose, such as in crowded indoor settings, assisted living facilities, prisons or food processing plants. To explore the effect on infection dynamics, we describe a new mathematical model where transmission can occur (i) in the community at large, characterized by low-dose exposure and mostly mild disease, and (ii) in so-called transmission hot zones, characterized by high-dose exposure that can be associated with more severe disease. The model yields different types of epidemiological dynamics, depending on the relative importance of hot zone and community transmission. Interesting dynamics occur if the rate of virus release/deposition from severely infected people is larger than that of mildly infected individuals. Under this assumption, we find that successful infection spread can hinge upon high-dose hot zone transmission, yet the majority of infections are predicted to occur in the community at large with mild disease. In this regime, residual hot zone transmission can account for continued virus spread during community lockdowns, and the suppression of hot zones after community interventions are relaxed can causemore »a prolonged lack of infection resurgence following the reopening of society. This gives rise to the notion that targeted interventions specifically reducing virus transmission in the hot zones have the potential to suppress overall infection spread, including in the community at large. Epidemiological trends in the USA and Europe are interpreted in light of this model.« less
  3. Abstract Recombination has been shown to contribute to human immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) evolution in vivo, but the underlying dynamics are extremely complex, depending on the nature of the fitness landscapes and of epistatic interactions. A less well-studied determinant of recombinant evolution is the mode of virus transmission in the cell population. HIV-1 can spread by free virus transmission, resulting largely in singly infected cells, and also by direct cell-to-cell transmission, resulting in the simultaneous infection of cells with multiple viruses. We investigate the contribution of these two transmission pathways to recombinant evolution, by applying mathematical models to in vitro experimental data on the growth of fluorescent reporter viruses under static conditions (where both transmission pathways operate), and under gentle shaking conditions, where cell-to-cell transmission is largely inhibited. The parameterized mathematical models are then used to extrapolate the viral evolutionary dynamics beyond the experimental settings. Assuming a fixed basic reproductive ratio of the virus (independent of transmission pathway), we find that recombinant evolution is fastest if virus spread is driven only by cell-to-cell transmission and slows down if both transmission pathways operate. Recombinant evolution is slowest if all virus spread occurs through free virus transmission. This is due to cell-to-cell transmissionmore »1, increasing infection multiplicity; 2, promoting the co-transmission of different virus strains from cell to cell; and 3, increasing the rate at which point mutations are generated as a result of more reverse transcription events. This study further resulted in the estimation of various parameters that characterize these evolutionary processes. For example, we estimate that during cell-to-cell transmission, an average of three viruses successfully integrated into the target cell, which can significantly raise the infection multiplicity compared to free virus transmission. In general, our study points towards the importance of infection multiplicity and cell-to-cell transmission for HIV evolution.« less
  4. Human populations in many countries have undergone a phase of demographic transition, characterized by a major reduction in fertility at a time of increased resource availability. A key stylized fact is that the reduction in fertility is preceded by a reduction in mortality and a consequent increase in population density. Various theories have been proposed to account for the demographic transition process, including maladaptation, increased parental investment in fewer offspring, and cultural evolution. None of these approaches, including formal cultural evolutionary models of the demographic transitions, have addressed a possible direct causal relationship between a reduction in mortality and the subsequent decline in fertility. We provide mathematical models in which low mortality favours the cultural selection of low-fertility traits. This occurs because reduced mortality slows turnover in the model, which allows the cultural transmission advantage of low-fertility traits to outrace their reproductive disadvantage. For mortality to be a crucial determinant of outcome, a cultural transmission bias is required where slow reproducers exert higher social influence. Computer simulations of our models that allow for exogenous variation in the death rate can reproduce the central features of the demographic transition process, including substantial reductions in fertility within only one to three generations.more »A model assuming continuous evolution of reproduction rates through imitation errors predicts fertility to fall below replacement levels if death rates are sufficiently low. This can potentially explain the very low preferred family sizes in Western Europe.« less
  5. Recombination in HIV infection can impact virus evolution in vivo in complex ways, as has been shown both experimentally and mathematically. The effect of free virus versus synaptic, cell-to-cell transmission on the evolution of double mutants, however, has not been investigated. Here, we do so by using a stochastic agent-based model. Consistent with data, we assume spatial constraints for synaptic but not for free-virus transmission. Two important effects of the viral spread mode are observed: (i) for disadvantageous mutants, synaptic transmission protects against detrimental effects of recombination on double mutant persistence. Under free virus transmission, recombination increases double mutant levels for negative epistasis, but reduces them for positive epistasis. This reduction for positive epistasis is much diminished under predominantly synaptic transmission, and recombination can, in fact, lead to increased mutant levels. (ii) The mode of virus spread also directly influences the evolutionary fate of double mutants. For disadvantageous mutants, double mutant production is the predominant driving force, and hence synaptic transmission leads to highest double mutant levels due to increased transmission efficiency. For advantageous mutants, double mutant spread is the most important force, and hence free virus transmission leads to fastest invasion due to better mixing. For neutral mutants, bothmore »production and spread of double mutants are important, and hence an optimal mixture of free virus and synaptic transmission maximizes double mutant fractions. Therefore, both free virus and synaptic transmission can enhance or delay double mutant evolution. Implications for drug resistance in HIV are discussed.« less