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The evolution and adaptation of HIV-1 virulence

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Recently, we put forwards the hypothesis that HIV may have evolved to maximize its transmission chances between humans (1). This emerged from a detailed statistical analysis of the relation between set-point viral load, infectiousness and survival, which I will describe. This suggests the surprising idea that HIV conforms to the classic trade-off model of evolution of virulence. I will review additional evidence and arguments for and against this hypothesis, and describe empirical tests of the theory, as well as new simulation results. This scenario would have significant consequences for public health, and thus further detailed investigation is warranted.

(1) Fraser et al, PNAS 104 , 17441-6 (2007)

This talk is part of the MRC Biostatistics Unit Seminars series.

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