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Impact of infectious diseases on host genetics

In a new paper published in the journal Conservation Genetics, CTBCC's Donald McKnight, Lin Schwarzkopf, Deborah Bower, Ross Alford, and Kyall Zenger review recent studies on the emergence of infectious diseases and their impact on host population genetics.

Emerging infectious diseases can cause large declines in many species through death, and through the alteration of life history traits such as reproduction.  

In order to plan effective mitigation and management strategies it is therefore important to understand how diseases impact populations.

In their review, the authors examined the literature on how infectious diseases influence host population genetic makeup, with a particular focus on whether or not they alter gene flow patterns, reduce genetic variability, and drive selection.

They found that there was evidence that infectious disease can impact all these outcomes - diseases can fragment populations, causing limited gene flow. Also, some studies found that gene flow can impact the evolution of small populations either beneficially or detrimentally. Thus, differences in gene flow levels may explain why some species adapt to disease while others do not. 

Read the full paper here.