Biodiversity: Mercedes Pascual

April 12, 2010 – "Population Dynamics in Epidemic Malaria: Climate Forcing and Parasite Evolution"
Mercedes Pascual, Rosemary Grant Collegiate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan

Infectious diseases at the population level are essentially a consumer-resource system, in which immunity plays a central role by determining which hosts are a resource for infection. Remarkable progress has been made in our understanding of the population dynamics of childhood infections such as measles that confer full immunity and do not exhibit (antigenic) diversity of the pathogen. This progress does not translate easily, however, to the many infectious diseases for which these properties do not apply. The waning patterns of immunity and complex patterns of parasite diversity in diseases like malaria raise many questions on population dynamics and parasite evolution.

In the first part of the talk, Pascual will address questions on the role of climate forcing in the population dynamics of epidemic malaria in regions at the edge of the spatial distribution of the disease, such as highland and desert fringes, where temperature and rainfall limit transmission. In the second part of the talk, sje will present theoretical results on the parasite's evolutionary strategies related to evasion of the immune system.