Social evolution in micro-organisms and a Trojan horse approach to medical intervention strategies.
Brown SP., West SA., Diggle SP., Griffin AS.
Medical science is typically pitted against the evolutionary forces acting upon infective populations of bacteria. As an alternative strategy, we could exploit our growing understanding of population dynamics of social traits in bacteria to help treat bacterial disease. In particular, population dynamics of social traits could be exploited to introduce less virulent strains of bacteria, or medically beneficial alleles into infective populations. We discuss how bacterial strains adopting different social strategies can invade a population of cooperative wild-type, considering public good cheats, cheats carrying medically beneficial alleles (Trojan horses) and cheats carrying allelopathic traits (anti-competitor chemical bacteriocins or temperate bacteriophage viruses). We suggest that exploitation of the ability of cheats to invade cooperative, wild-type populations is a potential new strategy for treating bacterial disease.