Infectious diseases and social distancing in nature

Science. 2021 Mar 5;371(6533):eabc8881. doi: 10.1126/science.abc8881.


Spread of contagious pathogens critically depends on the number and types of contacts between infectious and susceptible hosts. Changes in social behavior by susceptible, exposed, or sick individuals thus have far-reaching downstream consequences for infectious disease spread. Although “social distancing” is now an all too familiar strategy for managing COVID-19, nonhuman animals also exhibit pathogen-induced changes in social interactions. Here, we synthesize the effects of infectious pathogens on social interactions in animals (including humans), review what is known about underlying mechanisms, and consider implications for evolution and epidemiology.

PMID:33674468 | DOI:10.1126/science.abc8881