Co-infection alters population dynamics of infectious disease

Hanna Susi, Benoit Barrès, Pedro F Vale, Anna-Liisa Laine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Co-infections by multiple pathogen strains are common in the wild. Theory predicts co-infections to have major consequences for both within- and between-host disease dynamics, but data are currently scarce. Here, using common garden populations of Plantago lanceolata infected by two strains of the pathogen Podosphaera plantaginis, either singly or under co-infection, we find the highest disease prevalence in co-infected treatments both at the host genotype and population levels. A spore-trapping experiment demonstrates that co-infected hosts shed more transmission propagules than singly infected hosts, thereby explaining the observed change in epidemiological dynamics. Our experimental findings are confirmed in natural pathogen populations-more devastating epidemics were measured in populations with higher levels of co-infection. Jointly, our results confirm the predictions made by theoretical and experimental studies for the potential of co-infection to alter disease dynamics across a large host-pathogen metapopulation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5975
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2015


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