[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Co-infection by multiple parasites is common within individuals. Interactions between co-infecting parasites include resource competition, direct competition and immune-mediated interactions and each are likely to alter the dynamics of single parasites. We posit that co-infection is a driver of variation in parasite establishment and growth, ultimately altering the production of parasite transmission stages. To test this hypothesis, three different treatment groups of laboratory mice were infected with the gastrointestinal helminth Heligmosomoides polygyrus, the respiratory bacterial pathogen Bordetella bronchiseptica lux(+) or co-infected with both parasites. To follow co-infection simultaneously, self-bioluminescent bacteria were used to quantify infection in vivo and in real-time, while helminth egg production was monitored in real-time using faecal samples. Co-infection resulted in high bacterial loads early in the infection (within the first 5 days) that could cause host mortality. Co-infection also produced helminth 'super-shedders'; individuals that chronically shed the helminth eggs in larger than average numbers. Our study shows that co-infection may be one of the underlying mechanisms for the often-observed high variance in parasite load and shedding rates, and should thus be taken into consideration for disease management and control. Further, using self-bioluminescent bacterial reporters allowed quantification of the progression of infection within the whole animal of the same individuals at a fine temporal scale (daily) and significantly reduced the number of animals used (by 85%) compared with experiments that do not use in vivo techniques. Thus, we present bioluminescent imaging as a novel, non-invasive tool offering great potential to be taken forward into other applications of infectious disease ecology.
Journal of The Royal Society Interface 01/2013; 10(80):20120588. · 4.91 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An ability to forecast the prevalence of specific subtypes of avian influenza viruses (AIV) in live-bird markets would facilitate greatly the implementation of preventative measures designed to minimize poultry losses and human exposure. The minimum requirement for developing predictive quantitative tools is surveillance data of AIV prevalence sampled frequently over several years. Recently, a 4-year time series of monthly sampling of hemagglutinin subtypes 1-13 in ducks, chickens and quail in live-bird markets in southern China has become available. We used these data to investigate whether a simple statistical model, based solely on historical data (variables such as the number of positive samples in host X of subtype Y time t months ago), could accurately predict prevalence of H5 and H9 subtypes in chickens. We also examined the role of ducks and quail in predicting prevalence in chickens within the market setting because between-species transmission is thought to occur within markets but has not been measured. Our best statistical models performed remarkably well at predicting future prevalence (pseudo-R(2) = 0.57 for H9 and 0.49 for H5), especially considering the multi-host, multi-subtype nature of AIVs. We did not find prevalence of H5/H9 in ducks or quail to be predictors of prevalence in chickens within the Chinese markets. Our results suggest surveillance protocols that could enable more accurate and timely predictive statistical models. We also discuss which data should be collected to allow the development of mechanistic models.
PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(2):e56157. · 3.53 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The attenuation of myxoma virus (MYXV) following its introduction as a biological control into the European rabbit populations of Australia and Europe is the canonical study of the evolution of virulence. However, the evolutionary genetics of this profound change in host-pathogen relationship is unknown. We describe the genome-scale evolution of MYXV covering a range of virulence grades sampled over 49 years from the parallel Australian and European epidemics, including the high-virulence progenitor strains released in the early 1950s. MYXV evolved rapidly over the sampling period, exhibiting one of the highest nucleotide substitution rates ever reported for a double-stranded DNA virus, and indicative of a relatively high mutation rate and/or a continually changing selective environment. Our comparative sequence data reveal that changes in virulence involved multiple genes, likely losses of gene function due to insertion-deletion events, and no mutations common to specific virulence grades. Hence, despite the similarity in selection pressures there are multiple genetic routes to attain either highly virulent or attenuated phenotypes in MYXV, resulting in convergence for phenotype but not genotype.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Please cite this paper as: Pepin et al. (2012) Multiannual patterns of influenza A transmission in Chinese live bird market systems. Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses DOI: 10.1111/j.1750-2659.2012.00354.x. Background Avian influenza viruses (AIV) cause huge economic losses in poultry industries and pose a substantial threat to human health. However, predicting AIV epizootics and emergence in humans is confounded by insufficient empirical data on the ecology and dynamics of AIV in poultry systems. To address this gap, we quantified incidence patterns for 13 hemagglutinin subtypes of AIV using 6 years of surveillance data that were collected from ten different species of poultry and three different types of poultry holdings (contexts) - retail, wholesale, or farms. Methods We collected 42 646 samples in Shantou, China between 2000 and 2006. We screened samples for hemagglutinin subtypes 1-13 of AIV and Avian Paramyxovirus-type-1 (APMV-1) using monospecific antisera in hemagglutination inhibition tests. We analyzed the data to determine seasonality patterns, subtype-host, and subtype-subtype interactions as well as subtype bias in incidence in different contexts. Results H3, H6, H9, and APMV-1 were the most prevalent. No significant seasonality was found when all subtypes were considered together. For most AIV subtypes and APMV-1, there was subtype specificity for host, context, and coinfection partner. H5 showed the most generalized host usage pattern, followed by H9 and H6. Conclusion Subtype-specific patterns because of host, context, and other subtypes suggest that risk assessments that exclude these details are likely inaccurate. Surveillance should include longitudinal sampling of multiple host species in multiple contexts. Quantitative models of control strategies must consider multiple subtypes, hosts, and source contexts to assess the effectiveness of interventions.
Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses 03/2012; · 1.47 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pathogens traverse disciplinary and taxonomic boundaries, yet infectious disease research occurs in many separate disciplines including plant pathology, veterinary and human medicine, and ecological and evolutionary sciences. These disciplines have different traditions, goals, and terminology, creating gaps in communication. Bridging these disciplinary and taxonomic gaps promises novel insights and important synergistic advances in control of infectious disease. An approach integrated across the plant-animal divide would advance our understanding of disease by quantifying critical processes including transmission, community interactions, pathogen evolution, and complexity at multiple spatial and temporal scales. These advances require more substantial investment in basic disease research.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Helminth parasites have the potential to significantly affect the dynamics of their hosts. As a consequence, they can dramatically threaten the persistence of endangered species, such as rock partridge Alectoris graeca saxatilis, found in the Province of Trento (northern Italy).The aim of this work was to understand the effect of helminth parasites on rock partridge fitness, and the subsequent potential effects on host population dynamics. In particular, we investigated the hypothesis that infections from Ascaridia compar induce rock partridge population cycles observed in Trentino. In order to support this hypothesis, we compared the predictions obtained from a host–parasite interaction model including variable parasite aggregation with multi-annual empirical data of A. compar infection in natural host populations. We estimated host demographic parameters using rock partridge census data from Trentino, and the parasitological parameters from a series of experimental infections in a captive rock partridge population. The host–parasite model predicted higher A. compar abundance in rock partridge populations exhibiting cyclic dynamics compared to non-cyclic ones. In addition, for cyclic host populations, the model predicted an increase in mean parasite burden with the length of cycle period. Model predictions were well-supported by field data: significant differences in parasite infection between cyclic and non-cyclic populations and among cyclic populations with different oscillation periods were observed.On the basis of these results, we conclude that helminth parasites can not be ruled out as drivers of rock partridge population dynamics in Trentino and must be considered when planning conservation strategies of this threatened species.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Among parasites, Taylor's power law identifies a tight relationship in aggregation of macroparasite infection intensity with few exceptions; notably, the nematode family Oxyuridae tends to have higher than expected aggregation. Oxyuridae infect a wide range of mammalian hosts and have a unique reproductive strategy that involves conventional horizontal transmission, as well as re-infection of an already infected host. We asked the question, do the unique aspects of pinworm life-history explain an exception to the widely observed patterns of aggregation of parasite populations?
We empirically examined the differences among Oxyuridae (genus: Syphacia) compared with other helminth (genus: Heligmosomoides) parasite aggregations in 2 rodent hosts with similar ecology: the yellow-necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis) from Trento, Italy and the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) from Pennsylvania, USA. To investigate the effects of pinworm life-history characteristics on generating aggregation, we present a stochastic model that explores aggregation under a range of host-self-infection, parasite death, and transmission scenarios.
Oxyuridae parasites had consistently greater aggregation compared to other nematodes regardless of host or parasite species identity, and pinworm aggregation exceeded the range of macroparasite aggregation described previously.
Our simulations demonstrate that host-self-infection, on its own, is sufficient to generate aggregation values greater than the predicted values.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Many parasites with complex life cycles are known to modify their host phenotype to enhance transmission from the intermediate host to the definitive host. Several earlier studies explored these effects in acanthocephalan and trematode parasites, especially in aquatic ecosystems; however, much less is known about parasite‐mediated alterations of host behavior in terrestrial systems involving nematodes. Here, we address this gap by investigating a trophically transmitted nematode (Pterygodermatites peromysci) that uses a camel cricket (Ceuthophilus pallidipes) as the intermediate host before transmission to the final host, the white‐footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus). In a laboratory experiment, we quantified the anti‐predatory responses of the cricket intermediate host using simulated predator cues. Results showed a decrease in jumping performance among infected crickets as compared with uninfected crickets, specifically in terms of frequency of jumps and jumping distance. Additionally, the relationship between parasite load and frequency of jumps is negatively correlated with the intensity of infection. These behavioral modifications are likely to increase vulnerability to predation by the definitive host. An analysis of the age‐intensity pattern of infection in natural cricket populations appears to support this hypothesis: parasites accumulate with age, peak at an intermediate age class before the intensity of infection decreases in older age groups. We suggest that older, heavily infected crickets are preferentially removed from the population by predators because of increased vulnerability. These results show that cricket intermediate hosts infected with P. peromysci have diminished jumping performance, which is likely to impair their anti‐predatory behavior and potentially facilitate parasite transmission.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We examined the relative importance of intrinsic host factors and microparasite co-infection in generating variation in Heligmosomoides polygyrus fecundity, a parameter that serves as a proxy for infectiousness. We undertook extensive trapping of Apodemus flavicollis, the yellow-necked mouse in the woodlands of the Italian Alps and recorded eggs in utero from the dominant nematode species H. polygyrus, and tested for the presence of five microparasite infections. The results showed that sex and breeding status interact, such that males in breeding condition harboured more fecund nematodes than other hosts; in particular, worms from breeding males had, on average, 52% more eggs in utero than worms from non-breeding males. In contrast, we found a weak relationship between intensity and body mass, and no relationship between intensity and sex or intensity and breeding condition. We did not find any evidence to support the hypothesis that co-infection with microparasites contributed to variation in worm fecundity in this system. The age-intensity profiles for mice singly-infected with H. polygyrus and those co-infected with the nematode and at least one microparasite were both convex and not statistically different from each other. We concluded that intrinsic differences between hosts, specifically with regard to sex and breeding condition, contribute relatively more to the variation in worm fecundity than parasite co-infection status.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Free-living animals are usually inhabited by a community of parasitic species that can interact with each other and alter both host susceptibility and parasite transmission. In this study we tested the prediction that an increase in the gastrointestinal nematode Heligmosomoides polygyrus would increase the infestation of the tick Ixodes ricinus, in free-living yellow-necked mice, Apodemus flavicollis. An extensive cross-sectional trapping survey identified a negative relationship between H. polygyrus and I. ricinus counter to the prediction. An experimental reduction of the nematode infection through anthelmintic treatment resulted in an increase in tick infestation, suggesting that this negative association was one of cause and effect. Host characteristics (breeding condition and age) and habitat variables also contributed to affect tick infestation. While these results were counter to the prediction, they still support the hypothesis that interactions between parasite species can shape parasite community dynamics in natural systems. Laboratory models may act differently from natural populations and the mechanism generating the negative association is discussed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Mathematical models of disease dynamics tend to assume that individuals within a population mix at random and so transmission is random, and yet, in reality social structure creates heterogeneous contact patterns. We investigated the effect of heterogeneity in host contact patterns on potential macroparasite transmission by first quantifying the level of assortativity in a socially structured wild rodent population (Apodemus flavicollis) with respect to the directly-transmitted macroparasitic helminth, Heligmosomoides polygyrus. We found the population to be disassortatively mixed (i.e. male mice mixing with female mice more often than same sex mixing) at a constant level over time. The macroparasite H. polygyrus has previously been shown to exhibit male-biased transmission so we used a Susceptible-Infected (SI) mathematical model to simulate the effect of increasing strengths of male-biased transmission on the prevalence of the macroparasite using empirically-derived transmission networks. When transmission was equal between the sexes the model predicted macroparasite prevalence to be 73% and infection was male biased (82% of infection in the male mice). With a male-bias in transmission ten times that of the females, the expected macroparasite prevalence was 50% and was equally prevalent in both sexes, results that both most closely resembled empirical dynamics. As such, disassortative mixing alone did not produce macroparasite dynamics analogous to those from empirical observations; a strong male-bias in transmission was also required. We discuss the relevance of our results in the context of network models for transmission dynamics and control.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We examined the hypothesis that the interaction between concomitant infecting parasites modifies host susceptibility, parasite intensity and the pattern of parasite distribution within the host population. We used a 26 year time series of three common parasites in a natural population of rabbits: two gastrointestinal nematodes (Trichostrongylus retortaeformis and Graphidium strigosum) and the immunosuppressive myxoma virus. The frequency distribution of nematodes in the host population and the relationship between host age and nematode intensity were explored in rabbits with either single or dual nematode infections and rabbits infected with the nematodes and myxoma virus. The aggregation of T. retortaeformis and G. strigosum among the rabbits varied with the nature of the co-infection both in male and female hosts. The two nematodes exhibited different age-intensity profiles: G. strigosum intensity increased exponentially with host age while T. retortaeformis intensity exhibited a convex shape. The presence of a secondary infection did not change the age-intensity profile for G. strigosum but for T. retortaeformis co-infection (either both nematodes or myxoma-nematodes) resulted in significantly greater intensities in adult hosts. Results suggest that multi-species infections contributed to aggregation of parasites in the host population and to seasonal variation in intensity, but also enhanced differences in parasitism between sexes. This effect was apparent for T. retortaeformis, which appears to elicit a strong acquired immune response but not for G. strigosum which does not produce any evident immune reaction. We concluded that concomitant infections mediated by host immunity are important in modifying host susceptibility and influencing heterogeneity amongst individual hosts.
International Journal for Parasitology 04/2008; 38(3-4):371-80. · 3.64 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We investigated possible mechanisms that could cause sex-biased parasite transmission of the helminth Heligmosomoides polygyrus in its rodent host, Apodemus flavicollis, using a modelling approach. Two, not mutually exclusive, hypotheses were examined: that sex-biased parasite transmission is caused by differences in immunity that influence the success of free-living stages and/or is caused by sex differences in host behaviour and the dissemination of infective stages. Model simulations were compared with results from a field manipulation experiment of H. polygyrus in replicated populations of A. flavicollis. Simulations predicted the experimental field results, and both hypotheses explained the pattern observed. Transmission is male-biased if a male immune response increases fertility, hatching or survival of free-living stages. Alternatively, transmission is male-biased if their behavioural characteristics allow them to spread infective larvae in areas more frequently used by females. These results highlight that host sex is not only responsible for differences in parasite susceptibility, but may profoundly influence host-parasite interactions, resulting in a sex bias in parasite transmission.
International Journal for Parasitology 04/2007; 37(3-4):341-9. · 3.64 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The spatial and temporal distribution of hantavirus and arenavirus antibody-positive wild rodents in Trentino, Italy, was studied using immunofluorescence assays (IFA) in two long-term sites trapped in 2000-2003, and six other sites trapped in 2002. The overall hantavirus seroprevalence in the bank voles, Clethrionomys glareolus (n=229) screened for Puumala virus (PUUV) antibodies was 0.4%, and that for Apodemus flavicollis mice (n=1416) screened for Dobrava virus (DOBV) antibodies was 0.2%. Antibodies against lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) were found in 82 (5.6%) of the 1472 tested rodents; the seroprevalence being 6.1% in A. flavicollis (n=1181), 3.3% in C. glareolus (n=276), and 14.3% in Microtus arvalis (n=7). Of the serum samples of 488 forestry workers studied by IFA, 12 were LCMV-IgG positive (2.5%) and one DOBV-IgG positive (0.2%), however, the latter could not be confirmed DOBV-specific with a neutralization assay. Our results show a widespread distribution but low prevalence of DOBV in Trentino, and demonstrate that the arenavirus antibodies are a common finding in several other rodent species besides the house mouse.
Epidemiology and Infection 09/2006; 134(4):830-6. · 2.87 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Apparent competition between species is believed to be one of the principal driving forces that structure ecological communities, although the precise mechanisms have yet to be characterized. Here we develop a model system that isolates phage-mediated interactions by neutralizing resource competition with a large excess of nutrients, and consists of two genetically identical Bordetella strains that differ only in that one is the carrier of phage and the other is susceptible to the phage. We observe and quantify the competitive advantage of the bacterial strain bearing the prophage in both invading and in resisting invasion by the bacterial strain sensitive to the phage, and use our experimental measurements to develop a mathematical model of phage-mediated competition. The model predicts, and experimental evidence confirms, that the competitive advantage conferred by the lysogenic phage depends only on the phage pathology on the sensitive bacterial strain and is independent of other phage and host parameters, such as the infection-causing contact rate, the spontaneous and infection-induced lysis rates and the phage burst size. This work combines experimental and mathematical approaches to the study of phage-driven competition, and provides an experimentally tested framework for evaluation of the effects of pathogens/parasites on interspecific competition.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 08/2006; 273(1595):1843-8. · 5.68 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Levels of parasitism and the dynamics of helminth systems is subject to the impact of environmental conditions such that we may expect long term increases in temperature will increase the force of infection and the parasite's basic reproduction number, R0. We postulate that an increase in the force of infection will only lead to an increase in mean intensity of adults when adult parasite mortality is not determined by acquired immunity. Preliminary examination of long term trends of parasites of rabbits and grouse confirm these predictions. Parasite development rate increases with temperature and while laboratory studies indicate this is linear some recent studies indicate that this may be non-linear and would have an important impact on R0. Warming would also reduce the selective pressure for the development of arrestment and this would increase R0 so that in systems like the grouse and Trichostrongylus tenuis this would increase the instability and lead to larger disease outbreaks. Extreme climatic events that act across populations appear important in synchronizing transmission and disease outbreaks, so it is speculated that climate disruption will lead to increased frequency and intensity of disease outbreaks in parasite populations not regulated by acquired immunity.
Journal of Helminthology 07/2006; 80(2):175-82. · 1.16 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Studies of grouse conducted at northern latitudes have shown that tetraonids frequently exhibit cyclic fluctuations in abundance but little is known about the dynamics of grouse species at the southerly edge of their range. Hunting statistics from four species of grouse based on 30 yr of data collected from 210 hunting areas were examined from the Dolomitic Alps in the province of Trentino. These data were summed to represent 18 time series from discrete mountain groups. Analyses identified cycles of ca 5 yr in the minority of rock ptarmigan Lagopus mutus and hazel grouse Bonasa bonasia populations. These cycles only showed significant negative autocorrelation at half the cycle period and were classified as phase-forgetting quasi-cycles. Cycles were not found in time series of black grouse Tetrao terix or capereaillie Tetrao urogallus. Correcting time series for hunting effort or hunting restrictions tended to increase the proportion of populations that exhibited cycles but no difference in the strength of second order density dependence, A linear first order density-dependent autoregressive model described the dynamics of most of the populations with the exception of a proportion of rock ptarmigan and black grouse populations where a non linear first order model provided the best tit. We compare the findings with studies conducted in Finland and suggest possible reasons for the reduced tendency to cycle in the populations of southern Europe.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We assessed the effect of two pathogens (myxoma virus and Eimeria stiedae) and five macroparasites (gastrointestinal helminth species) of the wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) upon total host body mass and abdominal fat level. Additionally, we assessed the effects of these organisms on the number of foetuses in adult females during the peak breeding period. Both mass of abdominal fat and total body mass of the rabbit were negatively associated with myxoma virus infection and increasing helminth species richness. Total body mass was also negatively associated with the protozoan parasite E. steidae. No relationship was found between any of the parasites/pathogens and the number of foetuses in adult females, although only relatively small sample sizes were available for this section of the analysis. Increasing host body mass was positively associated with number of foetuses and we propose that mass reduction caused by the pathogen and parasite species could also have the consequence of reducing foetal number.
International Journal for Parasitology 01/2006; 35(14):1509-15. · 3.64 Impact Factor
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Seasonal variations in temperature, rainfall and resource availability are ubiquitous and can exert strong pressures on population dynamics. Infectious diseases provide some of the best-studied examples of the role of seasonality in shaping population fluctuations. In this paper, we review examples from human and wildlife disease systems to illustrate the challenges inherent in understanding the mechanisms and impacts of seasonal environmental drivers. Empirical evidence points to several biologically distinct mechanisms by which seasonality can impact host-pathogen interactions, including seasonal changes in host social behaviour and contact rates, variation in encounters with infective stages in the environment, annual pulses of host births and deaths and changes in host immune defences. Mathematical models and field observations show that the strength and mechanisms of seasonality can alter the spread and persistence of infectious diseases, and that population-level responses can range from simple annual cycles to more complex multiyear fluctuations. From an applied perspective, understanding the timing and causes of seasonality offers important insights into how parasite-host systems operate, how and when parasite control measures should be applied, and how disease risks will respond to anthropogenic climate change and altered patterns of seasonality. Finally, by focusing on well-studied examples of infectious diseases, we hope to highlight general insights that are relevant to other ecological interactions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Insight into the dynamics of parasite-host relationships of higher vertebrates requires an understanding of two important features: the nature of transmission and the development of acquired immunity in the host. A dominant hypothesis proposes that acquired immunity develops with the cumulative exposure to infection, and consequently predicts a negative relationship between peak intensity of infection and host age at this peak. Although previous studies have found evidence to support this hypothesis through between-population comparisons, these results are confounded by spatial effects. In this study, we examined the dynamics of infection of the nematode Trichostrongylus retortaeformis within a natural population of rabbits sampled monthly for 26 years. The rabbit age structure was reconstructed using body mass as a proxy for age, and the host age-parasite intensity relationship was examined for each rabbit cohort born from February to August. The age-intensity curves exhibited a typical concave shape, and a significant negative relationship was found between peak intensity of infection and host age at this peak. Adult females showed a distinct periparturient rise in T. retortaeformis infection, with higher intensities in breeding adult females than adult males and non-breeding females. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis of an acquired immune response of the host to a parasite infection, supporting the principle that acquired immunity can be modelled using the cumulative exposure to infection. These findings also show that seasonality can be an important driver of host-parasite interactions.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 07/2005; 272(1568):1163-9. · 5.68 Impact Factor