Imposed mutational meltdown as an antiviral strategy

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Microbiology and Physiological Systems

Publication Date


Document Type



Evolution | Genetics and Genomics | Immunology and Infectious Disease | Infectious Disease | Microbiology | Population Biology | Therapeutics | Virus Diseases


Following widespread infections of the most recent coronavirus known to infect humans, SARS-CoV-2, attention has turned to potential therapeutic options. With no drug or vaccine yet approved, one focal point of research is to evaluate the potential value of repurposing existing antiviral treatments, with the logical strategy being to identify at least a short-term intervention to prevent within-patient progression, whilst long-term vaccine strategies unfold. Here, we offer an evolutionary / population-genetic perspective on one approach that may overwhelm the capacity for pathogen defense (i.e., adaptation) - induced mutational meltdown - providing an overview of key concepts, review of previous theoretical and experimental work of relevance, and guidance for future research. Applied with appropriate care, including target specificity, induced mutational meltdown may provide a general, rapidly implemented approach for the within-patient eradication of a wide range of pathogens or other undesirable microorganisms.


Antivirals, SARS-CoV-2, lethal mutagenesis, mutational meltdown, population genetics

DOI of Published Version



Jensen JD, Stikeleather RA, Kowalik TF, Lynch M. Imposed mutational meltdown as an antiviral strategy. Evolution. 2020 Oct 13. doi: 10.1111/evo.14107. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33047822. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Evolution; international journal of organic evolution

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID