Host immunity plays an important role in the evolution of pathogen virulence and disease emergence. There is increasing theoretical and empirical evidence that enhanced immunity through vaccination may have the unfortunate side effect of selecting for more virulent parasites, but the effect of host immune suppression on pathogen evolution is less clear. Here, we use serial passage experiments in mice to test how immune-suppressed hosts may alter pathogen virulence evolution. We passagedPlasmodium chabaudithrough CD4+ T cell-depleted or control mice every 7 days for 20 weeks and then measured virulence differences during infection of immunologically normal mice. We found that those parasites that had been selected through CD4+ T cell-depleted mice were more virulent than parasites selected through control mice. Virulence increases during serial passage are believed to be caused by pathogen adaptation to the passage host. These data suggest that immune-suppressed hosts could provide a within-host environment that lowers the barrier to parasite adaptation and promotes the evolution of virulence.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics