Evolutionary approaches to study the natural history of Yersinia pestis
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The contribution of evolutionary theory to microbiology is uncontestable. Evolutionary models help us to study the phylogenetics of highly dangerous pathogens such as Yersinia pestis – the cause of plague - from its early history until now. Besides reconstructing history, attempts have been made to predict how Y. pestis will evolve in future, because it is still recognized as global health threat and as a potential biological weapon. However, evolutionary theory allows for multiple explanations and predictions. Is it realistic to expect this theory to have predictive value or to lead to unambiguous outcomes? Should this not be the case, what is the added value of evolutionary theory precisely? In this review, evolutionary approaches used to study evolution of Y. pestis are discussed, with the aim to define how evolutionary theory has contributed to knowledge about this pathogen.