Eli5 What is viral fitness and viral bottleneck?

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Eli5 What is viral fitness and viral bottleneck?

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Viral fitness is like a competition between different viruses. Just like animals and plants compete for resources, viruses compete for the chance to infect and reproduce in host cells. Some viruses are better at this competition than others, and these are said to have a high viral fitness.

Viral bottleneck is when only a small number of viruses from a larger population are able to successfully infect and reproduce. Imagine a bottle with a small opening and a lot of marbles inside, only a few of them are able to pass through the opening at a time. Similarly, only a small number of viruses from a larger population are able to pass through the bottleneck and continue to reproduce. This can happen when a virus infects a host with a strong immune system, or when a virus spreads to a new host and has to adapt to a new environment.

So to explain it simply, viral fitness is like a competition of who is the strongest and most successful virus, and viral bottleneck is like a small opening that only a few of the strongest viruses can pass through to reproduce.

5 YO answer. Viral fitness answers the question “how well does a virus grow and reproduce when it infects a person, or animal, or in a laboratory setting?” Viral bottleneck refers to how many viral particles one infected person has to transmit to another one to get them infected. For some viruses, or species of a single virus, its a lot; for others, not many.