Resistance gained, resistance lost: An explanation for host–parasite coexistence

by Britt Koskella

Host populations are under continual selection by parasites due to reduced fitness of infected individuals relative to uninfected individuals. This should select for host resistance against parasites, and ample evidence from the laboratory and natural populations demonstrates that hosts can respond rapidly to parasitism by evolving resistance. Why then do parasites still exist? In part, this is due to ongoing arms races as parasites evolve counteradaptations to overcome resistance and to the presence of spatial structure and refuges. However, host–parasite coexistence can also be explained through loss of resistance over time due either to selection against costly resistance mechanisms or constant loss of resistance via reversion mutations.

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