The enemy of my enemy is my friend: Immune-mediated facilitation contributes to fitness of co-infecting helminths

Francesca Dagostin, Chiara Vanalli, Brian Boag, Renato Casagrandi, Marino Gatto, Lorenzo Mari, Isabella M. Cattadori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The conceptual understanding of immune-mediated interactions between parasites is rooted in the theory of community ecology. One of the limitations of this approach is that most of the theory and empirical evidence has focused on resource or immune-mediated competition between parasites and yet there is ample evidence of positive interactions that could be generated by immune-mediated facilitation. We developed an immuno-epidemiological model and applied it to long-term data of two gastrointestinal helminths in two rabbit populations to investigate, through model testing, how immune-mediated mechanisms of parasite regulation could explain the higher intensities of both helminths in rabbits with dual than single infections. The model framework was selected and calibrated on rabbit population A and then validated on the nearby rabbit population B to confirm the consistency of the findings and the generality of the mechanisms. Simulations suggested that the higher intensities in rabbits with dual infections could be explained by a weakened or low species-specific IgA response and an asymmetric IgA cross-reaction. Simulations also indicated that rabbits with dual infections shed more free-living stages that survived for longer in the environment, implying greater transmission than stages from hosts with single infections. Temperature and humidity selectively affected the free-living stages of the two helminths. These patterns were comparable in the two rabbit populations and support the hypothesis that immune-mediated facilitation can contribute to greater parasite fitness and local persistence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)477-491
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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