Infectious disease transmission is a cost of sociality in humans and other animals. Nevertheless, the mechanisms linking social behaviour to infection risk are poorly known. We conducted a field experiment to examine how host intrinsic traits, behaviour and physiology affect infection of nonhuman primates with gastrointestinal parasites. We measured rate to reinfection in a social group of red-capped mangabeys, Cercocebus torquatus, following chemotherapeutic treatment for parasite infections. By measuring behaviour, infection and glucocorticoid levels, we compared the relative effects of space sharing, directional contact and physiological stress on risk of acquiring new infections. We found that, within proximity networks, individuals that were central, well connected and had a tendency to switch groups were at increased risk of infection with helminths. Protozoan infections, however, were acquired more uniformly across the population. In general, position in the social network and, in particular, space sharing appears to be more important than the immunosuppressive effects of physiological stress or host traits in determining risk of infection. Our results suggest that future studies of disease ecology within wildlife populations should focus on measures of network association in addition to individual host traits.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology