Error catastrophe is the extinction of an organism, many times in the context of microorganisms, such as viruses, as a result of excessive mutations. The theory was proposed by Leslie Orgel in 1963. Leslie Orgel published his first paper on the subject in 1963 and developed it in 1970. The term “error catastrophe” was originally introduced in the theory of molecular evolution by Manfred Eigen. This term was coined in order to describe the supposed inability of a genetic element to be kept in a population if the fidelity replication machinery decreases beyond a certain threshold value. Error catastrophe has been invoked as a theoretical basis for the treatment of viral infections with drugs that would push the error rate for copying of the viral genome beyond this threshold.
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- Orgel, L. E. (September 21, 1970). "The maintenance of the accuracy of protein synthesis and its relevance to ageing: a correction". Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 67 (3): 1476. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC283377/pdf/pnas00101-0395.pdf.
- Eigen, Manfred (1971). "Selforganization of matter and evolution of biological macromolecules". Naturwissenschaften (Springer Verlag) 58 (10): 465.
- Summers, Jesse; Litwin, Samuel (Jan 2006). "Examining The Theory of Error Catastrophe". J Virol. 80 (1): 20–26. http://jvi.asm.org/content/80/1/20.full.
- Eigen, Manfred (2002). "Error catastrophe and antiviral strategy". Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 99: 13374-13376. ISSN 0028-1042. http://www.pnas.org/content/99/21/13374.full.pdf.