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Chronic infection: punctuated interpenetration and pathogen virulence

By Rodrick Wallace and Robert G. Wallace


We apply an information dynamics formalism to the Levens and Lewontin vision of biological interpenetration between a 'cognitive condensation' including immune function embedded in social and cultural structure on the one hand, and an established, highly adaptive, parasite population on the other. We iterate the argument, beginning with direct interaction between cognitive condensation and pathogen, then extend the analysis to second order 'mutator' mechanisms inherent both to immune function and to certain forms of rapid pathogen antigenic variability. The methodology, based on the Large Deviations Program of applied probability, produces synergistic cognitive/adaptive 'learning plateaus' that represent stages of chronic infection, and, for human populations, is able to encompass the fundamental biological reality of culture omitted by other approaches. We conclude that, for 'evolution machine' pathogens like HIV and malaria, simplistic magic bullet 'medical' drug, vaccine, or behavior modification interventions which do not address the critical context of overall living and working conditions may constitute selection pressures triggering adaptations in life history strategy resulting in marked increase of pathogen virulenc

Topics: Theoretical Biology
Year: 2003
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