A speed fidelity trade-off

RNA viruses have extremely high mutation rates and most mutations are bad. In our latest paper, we asked “why hasn’t the virus evolved to have a lower mutation rate?” We used experimental evolution and a murine infection model to show that RNA virus mutation rates may actually be too high and are not necessarily adaptive. Rather, our data indicate that viral mutation rates are driven higher as a result of selection for viruses with faster replication kinetics. We suggest that viruses have high mutation rates, not because they facilitate adaptation, but because it is hard to be both fast and accurate.

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