A nutrient mediates intraspecific competition between rodent malaria parasites in vivo

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Hosts are often infected with multiple strains of a single parasite species. Within-host competition between parasite strains can be intense and has implications for the evolution of traits that impact patient health, such as drug resistance and virulence. Yet the mechanistic basis of within-host competition is poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that a parasite nutrient, para-aminobenzoic acid (pABA), mediates competition between a drug resistant and drug susceptible strain of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium chabaudi. We further show that increasing pABA supply to hosts infected with the resistant strain worsens disease and changes the relationship between parasite burden and pathology. Our experiments demonstrate that, even when there is profound top-down regulation (immunity), bottom-up regulation of pathogen populations can occur and that its importance may vary during an infection. The identification of resources that can be experimentally controlled opens up the opportunity to manipulate competitive interactions between parasites and hence their evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20171067
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1859
StatePublished - Jul 26 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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