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Helminth-associated changes in host immune phenotype connect top-down and bottom-up interactions during co-infection

Cite this dataset

Ezenwa, Vanessa; Seguel, Mauricio; Budischak, Sarah; Jolles, Anna (2022). Helminth-associated changes in host immune phenotype connect top-down and bottom-up interactions during co-infection [Dataset]. Dryad.


Within-host parasite interactions can be mediated by the host and changes in host phenotypes often serve as indicators of the presence or intensity of parasite interactions.

Parasites like helminths induce a range of physiological, morphological, and immunological changes in hosts that can drive bottom-up (resource-mediated) or top-down (immune-mediated) interactions with co-infecting parasites. Although top-down and bottom-up interactions are typically studied in isolation, the diverse phenotypic changes induced by parasite infection may serve as a useful tool for understanding if, and when, these processes act in concert.

Using an anthelmintic treatment study of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), we tracked changes in host immunological and morphological phenotypes during helminth-coccidia co-infection to investigate their role in driving independent and combinatorial bottom-up and top-down parasite interactions. We also examined repercussions for host fitness.

Clearance of a blood-sucking helminth, Haemonchus, from the host gastrointestinal tract induced a systemic Th2 immune phenotype, while clearance of a tissue-feeding helminth, Cooperia, induced a systemic Th1 phenotype. Furthermore, the Haemonchus-associated systemic Th2 immune phenotype drove simultaneous top-down and bottom-up effects that increased coccidia shedding by changing the immunological and morphological landscapes of the intestine.

Higher coccidia shedding was associated with lower host body condition, a lower chance of pregnancy, and older age at first pregnancy, suggesting that coccidia infection imposed significant condition and reproductive costs on the host.

Our findings suggest that top-down and bottom-up interactions may commonly co-occur and that tracking key host phenotypes that change in response to infection can help uncover complex pathways by which parasites interact.

Usage notes

The zip directory ( contains data reported in the associated publication.


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-1102493

National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Award: 1R01GM131319