Sapronosis: a distinctive type of infectious agent

Trends in Parasitology
By: , and 



Sapronotic disease agents have evolutionary and epidemiological properties unlike other infectious organisms. Their essential saprophagic existence prevents coevolution, and no host–parasite virulence trade-off can evolve. However, the host may evolve defenses. Models of pathogens show that sapronoses, lacking a threshold of transmission, cannot regulate host populations, although they can reduce host abundance and even extirpate their hosts. Immunocompromised hosts are relatively susceptible to sapronoses. Some particularly important sapronoses, such as cholera and anthrax, can sustain an epidemic in a host population. However, these microbes ultimately persist as saprophages. One-third of human infectious disease agents are sapronotic, including nearly all fungal diseases. Recognition that an infectious disease is sapronotic illuminates a need for effective environmental control strategies.
Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Sapronosis: a distinctive type of infectious agent
Series title Trends in Parasitology
DOI 10.1016/
Volume 30
Issue 8
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description 8 p.
First page 386
Last page 393
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