Host genetics and pathogen species modulate infection-induced changes in social aggregation behaviour

Valéria Romano, Amy Lussiana, Katy Monteith, Andrew J J Macintosh, Pedro Vale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Identifying how infection modifies host behaviours that determine social contact networks is important for understanding heterogeneity in infectious disease dynamics. Here, we investigate whether group social behaviour is modified during bacterial infection in fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) according to pathogen species, infectious dose, host genetic background and sex. In one experiment, we find that systemic infection with four different bacterial species results in a reduction in the mean pairwise distance within infected female flies, and that the extent of this change depends on pathogen species. However, susceptible flies did not show any evidence of avoidance in the presence of infected flies. In a separate experiment, we observed genetic- and sex-based variation in social aggregation within infected, same-sex groups, with infected female flies aggregating more closely than infected males. In general, our results confirm that bacterial infection induces changes in fruit fly behaviour across a range of pathogen species, but also highlight that these effects vary between fly genetic backgrounds and can be sex-specific. We discuss possible explanations for sex differences in social aggregation and their consequences for individual variation in pathogen transmission.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20220233
Number of pages7
JournalBiology letters
Early online date31 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • social aggregation
  • infection avoidance
  • sickness behaviour
  • genetic variation
  • pathogen dose
  • bacterial infection


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