About this Research Topic
Due to the random nature of mutations and the complex interplay between genes and the environment, evolutionary trajectories were long thought to be essentially unpredictable and unique. However, a growing body of evidence from laboratory experiments and comparative genomics has revealed that, for microbial and viral populations, predictability is to some extent possible. This is due to statistical regularities in the evolutionary process resulting from large population sizes, high mutation rates, and molecular constraints on adaptation.
The possibility of predicting viral evolution opens promising pathways towards epidemiological control. The importance of making such predictions is highlighted by real-world events, while also demonstrating current limitations. To make meaningful predictions, we need to develop a deeper understanding of how variation and constraints at the molecular level affect virus phenotypes, virus-host interactions, and population-level epidemiological dynamics.
The goal of this Research Topic is to provide an overview of the predictability of virus evolution at the genotype and phenotype level and to explore how to leverage predictability for anticipating evolutionary and epidemiological trends.
We invite contributions with Original Research, Reviews, Mini-Reviews, and Opinion pieces that cover, but are not limited to, the following topics:
- Reproducibility of evolutionary trajectories at the genotype and phenotype levels.
- Predictability of virus-host coevolutionary dynamics.
- Analysis of molecular (e.g. epitope) microevolutionary trends to inform epidemiological projections.
- Application of fitness trade-offs to predict and control virus evolution (e.g. prevent drug resistance and vaccine escape).
- Conceptual principles underpinning the predictability of viral evolution and its limits, including the importance of rare events.
Keywords: Virus, Evolution, Epidemiology, Mutations, Molecular Constraints, Predictability, Evolutionary Trajectories, Virus Host Coevolution, Fitness Landscapes
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.