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Effectiveness analysis of resistance and tolerance to infection

Johann C Detilleux

Author Affiliations

Quantitative Genetics Group, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Liège, Liège, Belgium

Genetics Selection Evolution 2011, 43:9  doi:10.1186/1297-9686-43-9

Published: 1 March 2011



Tolerance and resistance provide animals with two distinct strategies to fight infectious pathogens and may exhibit different evolutionary dynamics. However, few studies have investigated these mechanisms in the case of animal diseases under commercial constraints.


The paper proposes a method to simultaneously describe (1) the dynamics of transmission of a contagious pathogen between animals, (2) the growth and death of the pathogen within infected hosts and (3) the effects on their performances. The effectiveness of increasing individual levels of tolerance and resistance is evaluated by the number of infected animals and the performance at the population level.


The model is applied to a particular set of parameters and different combinations of values. Given these imputed values, it is shown that higher levels of individual tolerance should be more effective than increased levels of resistance in commercial populations. As a practical example, a method is proposed to measure levels of animal tolerance to bovine mastitis.


The model provides a general framework and some tools to maximize health and performances of a population under infection. Limits and assumptions of the model are clearly identified so it can be improved for different epidemiological settings.