A virulent parasite can provide protection against a lethal parasitoid

Eleanore D. Sternberg, Thierry Lefèvre, Amanda H. Rawstern, Jacobus C. de Roode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Hosts often become infected with multiple parasite strains or species. Previous work has shown that the outcome of infections with multiple parasite strains or species often differs significantly from that of single infections, making them a potentially important factor in determining the prevalence and spread of disease. Here we show that infection with a virulent parasite increases host survival during later exposure to a lethal parasitoid. Specifically, when monarch butterfly larvae (Danaus plexippus) are inoculated with the virulent protozoan parasite Ophryocystis elektroscirrha and then attacked by the lethal parasitoid fly Lespesia archippivora, survival is higher than when the larvae are exposed to the parasitoid only. This is potentially a result of the protozoan's requirement for host survival to obtain between-host transmission. Our findings suggest that a virulent parasite can play a protective role for its host and indicate that parasites can act as mutualists depending on the presence of other parasites. We emphasize the importance of considering infection in an ecological context, including the presence of competing parasites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-406
Number of pages8
JournalInfection, Genetics and Evolution
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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