Getting to Know Viral Evolutionary Strategies: Towards the Next Generation of Quasispecies Models.

Viral populations are formed by complex ensembles of genomes with broad phenotypic diversity. The adaptive strategies deployed by these ensembles are multiple and often cannot be predicted a priori. Our understanding of viral dynamics is mostly based on two kinds of empirical approaches: one directed towards characterizing molecular changes underlying fitness changes and another focused on population-level responses. Simultaneously, theoretical efforts are directed towards developing a formal picture of viral evolution by means of more realistic fitness landscapes and reliable population dynamics models. New technologies, chiefly the use of next-generation sequencing and related tools, are opening avenues connecting the molecular and the population levels. In the near future, we hope to be witnesses of an integration of these still decoupled approaches, leading into more accurate and realistic quasispecies models able to capture robust generalities and endowed with a satisfactory predictive power.

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