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.
- plasmodium chabaudi
- plasmodium yoelii
- genetically diverse infection
- red blood cell
- species interactions