Costs and benefits of sub-lethal Drosophila C Virus infection

Vanika Gupta, Charlotte Stewart, Sam Rund, Katy M. Monteith, Pedro Ferreira Do Vale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Viruses are major evolutionary drivers of insect immune systems. Much of our knowledge of insect immune responses derives from experimental infections using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Most experiments, however, employ lethal pathogen doses through septic injury, frequently overwhelming host physiology. While this approach has revealed several immune mechanisms, it is less informative about the fitness costs hosts may experience during infection in the wild. Using both systemic and oral infection routes we find that even apparently benign, sub-lethal infections with the horizontally transmitted Drosophila C Virus (DCV) can cause significant physiological and behavioural morbidity that is relevant for host fitness. We describe DCV-induced effects on fly reproductive output, digestive health, and locomotor activity, and we find that viral morbidity varies according to the concentration of pathogen inoculum, host genetic background and sex. Notably, sub-lethal DCV infection resulted in a significant increase in fly reproduction, but this effect depended on host genotype. We discuss the relevance of sub-lethal morbidity for Drosophila ecology and evolution, and more broadly, we remark on the implications of deleterious and beneficial infections for the evolution of insect immunity.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Evolutionary Biology
Early online date20 Apr 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Apr 2017


  • Sub-lethal infection
  • systemic infection
  • oral infection
  • fecundity
  • locomotor activity
  • fecal excretion
  • fitness


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