Laboratory experiments in which blood-borne parasitic microbes evolve in their animal hosts offer an opportunity to study parasite evolution and adaptation in real time and under natural settings. The main challenge of these experiments is to establish a protocol that is both practical over multiple passages and accurately reflects natural transmission scenarios and mechanisms. We provide a guide to the steps that should be considered when designing such a protocol, and we demonstrate its use via a case study. We highlight the importance of choosing suitable ancestral genotypes, treatments, number of replicates per treatment, types of negative controls, dependent variables, covariates, and the timing of checkpoints for the experimental design. We also recommend specific preliminary experiments to determine effective methods for parasite quantification, transmission, and preservation. Although these methodological considerations are technical, they also often have conceptual implications. To this end, we encourage other researchers to design and conduct in vivo evolution experiments with blood-borne parasitic microbes, despite the challenges that the work entails.
Rodríguez-Pastor R, Shafran Y, Knossow N, Gutiérrez R, Harrus S, Zaman L, Lenski RE, Barrick JE, Hawlena H. (2022). A road map for in vivo evolution experiments with blood-borne parasitic microbes. Molecular ecology resources