Why do diseases kill their hosts?

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Why do diseases kill their hosts?
« on: 22/02/2010 11:30:02 »
Michael  asked the Naked Scientists:
How does the gene-centred view of evolutionary biology explain diseases that kill their hosts, thus preventing further propagation of the diseases' genes?


Michael Burke  

San Diego, CA US

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 22/02/2010 11:30:02 by _system »


Offline Jessica H

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Why do diseases kill their hosts?
« Reply #1 on: 22/02/2010 15:45:31 »
I think you're right in that train of thinking; the common cold has evolved to be a very successful virus as it doesn't kill us therefore we live to infect, and be infected, again.  I guess if the disease is very deadly, it can only survive if it's highly infectious, has a long incubation period in the host, and/or has a secondary host where it's not so lethal.  This was the big mystery with Ebola, which is very deadly very quickly in humans.  They are thinking it survives in a secondary host- bats- between epidemics in humans.

I guess if I virus was REALLY deadly, it would die out with the host and go extinct.  I wonder if this has been documented?