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Endemic infection reduces transmission potential of an epidemic parasite during co-infection

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>2013
<mark>Journal</mark>Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Early online date21/08/13
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Endemic, low-virulence parasitic infections are common in nature. Such infections may deplete host resources, which in turn could affect the reproduction of other parasites during co-infection. We aimed to determine whether the reproduction, and therefore transmission potential, of an epidemic parasite was limited by energy costs imposed on the host by an endemic infection. Total lipids, triacylglycerols (TAG) and polar lipids were measured in cockroaches (Blattella germanica) that were fed ad libitum, starved or infected with an endemic parasite, Gregarina blattarum. Reproductive output of an epidemic parasite, Steinernema carpocapsae, was then assessed by counting the number of infective stages emerging from these three host groups. We found both starvation and gregarine infection reduced cockroach lipids, mainly through depletion of TAG. Further, both starvation and G. blattarum infection resulted in reduced emergence of nematode transmission stages. This is, to our knowledge, the first study to demonstrate directly that host resource depletion caused by endemic infection could affect epidemic disease transmission. In view of the ubiquity of endemic infections in nature, future studies of epidemic transmission should take greater account of endemic co-infections.