Facilitation through altered resource availability in a mixed-species rodent malaria infection

Ricardo S. Ramiro, Laura C. Pollitt, Nicole Mideo, Sarah E. Reece, Richard Ostfeld (Editor)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A major challenge in disease ecology is to understand how co-infecting parasite species interact. We manipulate in vivo resources and immunity to explain interactions between two rodent malaria parasites, Plasmodium chabaudi and P. yoelii. These species have analogous resource-use strategies to the human parasites Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax: P. chabaudi and P. falciparum infect red blood cells (RBC) of all ages (RBC generalist); P. yoelii and P. vivax preferentially infect young RBCs (RBC specialist). We find that: (1) recent infection with the RBC generalist facilitates the RBC specialist (P. yoelii density is enhanced ~10 fold). This occurs because the RBC generalist increases availability of the RBC specialist's preferred resource; (2) co-infections with the RBC generalist and RBC specialist are highly virulent; (3) and the presence of an RBC generalist in a host population can increase the prevalence of an RBC specialist. Thus, we show that resources shape how parasite species interact and have epidemiological consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1041-1050
Number of pages9
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number9
Early online date30 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • malaria
  • plasmodium chabaudi
  • plasmodium yoelii
  • genetically diverse infection
  • co-infection
  • virulence
  • red blood cell
  • reticulocyte
  • facilitation
  • species interactions


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