Immune Systems: Linking Organisms, Populations, and Evolution through Disease


At one point or another, almost every organism will face infection by parasites. Despite this near universality, immune responses to infection vary markedly across individuals, sexes, populations, and species. Because immune defenses play a crucial role in combating parasites, understanding variation in these organismal traits is integral to understanding higher-level biological processes such as disease transmission and host-parasite co-evolution. This chapter briefly reviews current theories regarding the drivers of immune heterogeneity, focusing on differences at the individual level. It then explores how theoretical and empirical studies have begun to link this variation with rates of parasite transmission and evolution. Finally, by highlighting gaps between current theoretical and empirical studies of immune variation and infectious disease dynamics, the chapter proposes avenues for future research.

Publication Title

Integrative Organismal Biology