Temperate and chronic virus competition leads to low lysogen frequency

Sara M. Clifton, Rachel J. Whitaker, Zoi Rapti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The canonical bacteriophage is obligately lytic: the virus infects a bacterium and hijacks cell functions to produce large numbers of new viruses which burst from the cell. These viruses are well-studied, but there exist a wide range of coexisting virus lifestyles that are less understood. Temperate viruses exhibit both a lytic cycle and a latent (lysogenic) cycle, in which viral genomes are integrated into the bacterial host. Meanwhile, chronic (persistent) viruses use cell functions to produce more viruses without killing the cell; chronic viruses may also exhibit a latent stage in addition to the productive stage. Here, we study the ecology of these competing viral strategies. We demonstrate the conditions under which each strategy is dominant, which aids in control of human bacterial infections using viruses. We find that low lysogen frequencies provide competitive advantages for both virus types; however, chronic viruses maximize steady state density by eliminating lysogeny entirely, while temperate viruses exhibit a non-zero ‘sweet spot’ lysogen frequency. Viral steady state density maximization leads to coexistence of temperate and chronic viruses, explaining the presence of multiple viral strategies in natural environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number110710
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
StatePublished - Aug 21 2021


  • Bacteria
  • Infection
  • Latent
  • Mathematical model
  • Phage
  • Recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Modeling and Simulation


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