Host genotype and co-infection modify the relationship of within and between host transmission

Hanna Susi, Pedro Ferreira Do Vale, Anna-Liisa Laine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Variation in individual-level disease transmission is well documented, but the underlying causes of this variation are challenging to disentangle in natural epidemics. In general, within-host replication is critical in determining the extent to which infected hosts shed transmission propagules, but which factors cause variation in this relationship are poorly understood. Here, using a plant host, Plantago lanceolata, and the powdery mildew fungus Podosphaera
plantaginis, we quantify how the distinct stages of within-host spread (autoinfection), spore release, and successful transmission to new hosts (alloinfection) are influenced by host genotype, pathogen genotype, and the coinfection status of the host. We find that within-host spread alone fails to predict transmission rates, as this relationship is modified by genetic variation in hosts and pathogens. Their contributions change throughout the course of the epidemic. Host genotype and coinfection had particularly pronounced effects on the dynamics of spore release from infected hosts. Confidently predicting disease spread from local levels of individual transmission, therefore, requires
a more nuanced understanding of genotype-specific infection outcomes. This knowledge is key to better understanding the drivers of epidemiological dynamics and the resulting evolutionary trajectories of infectious disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-263
Number of pages12
JournalThe American Naturalist
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015


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