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Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are often associated with chronic diseases and can have severe impacts on host reproductive success. For airborne or socially transmitted pathogens, patterns of contact by which the infection spreads tend to be dispersed and each contact may be of very short duration. By contrast, the transmission pathways for STIs are usually characterized by repeated contacts with a small subset of the population. Here we review how heterogeneity in sexual contact patterns can influence epidemiological dynamics, and present a simple model of polygyny/polyandry to illustrate the impact of biased mating systems on disease incidence and pathogen virulence.

Original publication




Journal article


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Publication Date





Animals, Biological Evolution, Female, Incidence, Male, Models, Biological, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Virulence