Diseases induced by obligate intracellular pathogens have a large burden on global human and animal health. Understanding the factors involved in the virulence and fitness of these pathogens contributes to the development of control strategies against these diseases. Based on biological observations, a theoretical model using game theory is proposed to explain how obligate intracellular bacteria interact with their host. The equilibrium in such a game shows that the virulence and fitness of the bacterium is host-triggered and by changing the host’s defense system to which the bacterium is confronted, an evolutionary process leads to an attenuated strain. Although, the attenuation procedure has already been conducted in practice in order to develop an attenuated vaccine (e.g. with Ehrlichia ruminantium), there was a lack of understanding of the theoretical basis behind this process. Our work provides a model to better comprehend the existence of different phenotypes and some underlying evolutionary mechanisms for the virulence of obligate intracellular bacteria.
Tago, D., & Meyer, D. F. (2016). Economic Game Theory to Model the Attenuation of Virulence of an Obligate Intracellular Bacterium. Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fcimb.2016.00086