In this unit, we will take a look at infectious disease evolution, its relation to control measures and also take a quick glance at emerging infectious diseases and virulence evolution.

Learning Objectives

  • Understand the central mechanisms and drivers of infectious disease evolution
  • Be able to assess how different control strategies can affect infectious disease evolution
  • Understand how control measures affect pathogen fitness
  • Assess the impact of different control measures on potential for evolution


Read the chapters Evolutionary Dynamics Introduction, Evolution and Control and Emerging Infectious Diseases in IDEMAB. They are not very long and some are still a bit rough, but hopefully readable (as always, contributions/improvements are welcome.) Optionally, also read the (currently very short) Virulence chapter.


The following videos discuss some aspects of pathogen evolution.

Overview of ID evolution

As part of the Epidemics MOOC, Andrew Read provides a general discussion of pathogen evolution

Evolution of drug resistance

The following video shows drug resistance evolution in action in a very clever experimental system. More details on the experiment can be found in this article published in Science.

In this video, Andrew Read provides a more detailed discussion how drug treatment and evolution interact to lead to resistance, and what we can do to minimize the problem

This short video, which is part of a TEDEd lesson, discusses evolution of drug resistance in a very easy to understand way. This video is optional.

Evolution of Virulence

In this video from the University of Hong Kong Epidemics course, Marc Lipsitch discusses the evolution of pathogens with a special focus on the evolution of virulence.

In this video, which is part of a TEDEd lesson, Nicole Mideo and colleagues provide an explanation of evolution of pathogen virulence. This video is optional.