Phenotype diffusion and One Health: a proposed framework for investigating the plurality of obesity epidemics across many species.
We propose the idea of "phenotype diffusion," which is a rapid convergence of an observed trait in some human and animal populations. The words phenotype and diffusion both imply observations independent of mechanism as phenotypes are observed traits with multiple possible genetic mechanisms and diffusion is an observed state of being widely distributed. Recognizing shared changes in phenotype in multiple species does not by itself reveal a particular mechanism such as a shared exposure, shared adaptive need, particular stochastic process or a transmission pathway. Instead, identifying phenotype diffusion suggests the mechanism should be explored to help illuminate the ways human and animal health are connected and new opportunities for optimizing these links. Using the plurality of obesity epidemics across multiple species as a prototype for shared changes in phenotype, the goal of this review was to explore eco-evolutionary theories that could inform further investigation. First, evolutionary changes described by hologenome evolution, pawnobe evolution, transposable element (TE) thrust and the drifty gene hypothesis will be discussed within the context of the selection asymmetries among human and animal populations. Secondly, the ecology of common source exposures (bovine milk, xenohormesis and "obesogens"), niche evolution and the hygiene hypothesis will be summarized. Finally, we synthesize these considerations. For example, many agricultural breeds have been aggressively selected for weight gain, microbiota (e.g., adenovirus 36, toxoplasmosis) associated with (or infecting) these breeds cause experimental weight gain in other animals, and these same microbes are associated with human obesity. We propose applications of phenotype diffusion could include zoonotic biosurveillance, biocontainment, antibiotic stewardship and environmental priorities. The One Health field is focused on the connections between the health of humans, animals and the environment, and so identification of phenotype diffusion is highly relevant for practitioners (public health officials, physicians and veterinarians) in this field.