Eco-evolutionary control of pathogens

PNAS – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America


Eco-evolutionary control of pathogens
Michael Lässig and Ville Mustonen
PNAS first published July 31, 2020.
Vaccinations and therapies targeting evolving pathogens aim to curb the pathogen and to steer it toward a controlled evolutionary state. Control is leveraged against the pathogen’s intrinsic evolutionary forces, which in turn, can drive an escape from control. Here, we analyze a simple model of control, in which a host produces antibodies that bind the pathogen. We show that the leverages of host (or external intervention) and pathogen are often highly imbalanced: an error threshold separates parameter regions of efficient control from regions of compromised control, where the pathogen retains the upper hand. Because control efficiency can be predicted from few measurable fitness parameters, our results establish a proof of principle how control theory can guide interventions against evolving pathogens.