The theory of adaptive polymorphism predicts that species occupying broad ecological niches will be phenotypically and genotypically more varied than those occupying narrow niches. It is suggested that this theory has direct relevance to the epidemiology of microbial pathogens in that environmental pathogens inhabit a broader niche and should be expected to exhibit greater variation than pathogens that are obligate commensals. This proved to be the case when one obligate commensal, the pathogenic yeast Candida albicans, was compared with other Candida spp. and an environmental pathogen, Cryptococcus neoformans. Further evidence of this relationship is derived from the literature. This observation adds further support to the theory of adaptive polymorphism, although the mechanisms of maintenance of polymorphism is asexually reproducing populations must be different from those in sexually reproducing populations. This observation may give important clues to the epidemiology of those infections for which it is not already known
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