Modelling SARS-CoV-2 coevolution with genetic algorithms

24 Feb 2021  ·  Aymeric Vie ·

At the end of 2020, policy responses to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak have been shaken by the emergence of virus variants, impacting public health and policy measures worldwide. The emergence of these strains suspected to be more contagious, more severe, or even resistant to antibodies and vaccines, seem to have taken by surprise health services and policymakers, struggling to adapt to the new variants constraints... Anticipating the emergence of these mutations to plan ahead adequate policies, and understanding how human behaviors may affect the evolution of viruses by coevolution, are key challenges. In this article, we propose coevolution with genetic algorithms (GAs) as a credible approach to model this relationship, highlighting its implications, potential and challenges. Because of their qualities of exploration of large spaces of possible solutions, capacity to generate novelty, and natural genetic focus, GAs are relevant for this issue. We present a dual GA model in which both viruses aiming for survival and policy measures aiming at minimising infection rates in the population, competitively evolve. This artificial coevolution system may offer us a laboratory to "debug" our current policy measures, identify the weaknesses of our current strategies, and anticipate the evolution of the virus to plan ahead relevant policies. It also constitutes a decisive opportunity to develop new genetic algorithms capable of simulating much more complex objects. We highlight some structural innovations for GAs for that virus evolution context that may carry promising developments in evolutionary computation, artificial life and AI. read more

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