Prions consist mainly, if not entirely, of PrP(Sc), an aggregated conformer of the host protein PrP(C). Prions come in different strains, all based on the same PrP(C) sequence, but differing in their conformations. The efficiency of prion transmission between species is usually low, but increases after serial transmission in the new host, suggesting a process involving mutation and selection. Even within the same species, the transfer of prions between cell types entails a selection of favoured 'substrains', and propagation of prions in the presence of an inhibitory drug can result in the appearance of drug-resistant prion populations. We propose that prion populations are comprised of a variety of conformers, constituting 'quasi-species', from which the one replicating most efficiently in a particular environment is selected.