Gradual environmental change is an ally to viral pathogens

How viruses like Ebola, influenza or even the common cold adapt is a question that affects the health of everyone on earth.  A new Yale University study reveals that gradual exposure to new host species leads to major genetic changes in these pathogens — and possibly makes them more dangerous.

In environments marked by more gradual change, the molecular alterations are more like “tweaks, as if the virus is keeping its options open,” said Yale’s Paul Turner, professor of ecology, evolutionary biology and co-author of the research published online Feb. 1 in the journal Evolution.