The evolution of transmission mode
This article reviews research on the evolutionary mechanisms leading to different transmission modes. Such modes are often under genetic control of the host or the pathogen, and often in conflict with each other via trade-offs. Transmission modes may vary among pathogen strains and among host populations. Evolutionary changes in transmission mode have been inferred through experimental and phylogenetic studies, including changes in transmission associated with host shifts and with evolution of the unusually complex life cycles of many parasites. Understanding the forces that determine the evolution of particular transmission modes presents a fascinating medley of problems for which there is a lack of good data and often a lack of conceptual understanding or appropriate methodologies. Our best information comes from studies that have been focused on the vertical versus horizontal transmission dichotomy. With other kinds of transitions, theoretical approaches combining epidemiology and population genetics are providing guidelines for determining when and how rapidly new transmission modes may evolve, but these are still in need of empirical investigation and application to particular cases. Obtaining such knowledge is a matter of urgency in relation to extant disease threats.