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Social immunity modulates competition between coinfecting pathogens

Citation

Milutinović, Barbara et al. (2020), Social immunity modulates competition between coinfecting pathogens, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.crjdfn318

Abstract

Coinfections with multiple pathogens can result in complex within-host dynamics affecting virulence and transmission. Whilst multiple infections are intensively studied in solitary hosts, it is so far unresolved how social host interactions interfere with pathogen competition, and if this depends on coinfection diversity. We studied how the collective disease defenses of ants – their social immunity ­– influence pathogen competition in coinfections of same or different fungal pathogen species. Social immunity reduced virulence for all pathogen combinations, but interfered with spore production only in different-species coinfections. Here, it decreased overall pathogen sporulation success, whilst simultaneously increasing co-sporulation on individual cadavers and maintaining a higher pathogen diversity at the community-level. Mathematical modeling revealed that host sanitary care alone can modulate competitive outcomes between pathogens, giving advantage to fast-germinating, thus less grooming-sensitive ones. Host social interactions can hence modulate infection dynamics in coinfected group members, thereby altering pathogen communities at the host- and population-level.