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Peak shift and epidemiology in a seasonal host–nematode system

By I.M Cattadori, B Boag, O.N Bjørnstad, S.J Cornell and P.J Hudson


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

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: The Royal Society
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:1559811
Provided by: PubMed Central
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