One of the conditions that can affect host susceptibility and parasite transmission is the occurrence of concomitant infections. Parasites interact directly or indirectly within an individual host and often these interactions are modulated by the host immune response. We used a free-living rabbit population co-infected with the nematode Trichostrongylus retortaeformis, which appears to stimulate an acquired immune response, and the immunosuppressive poxvirus myxoma. Modelling was used to examine how myxoma infection alters the immune-mediated establishment and death/expulsion of T. retortaeformis, and consequently affects parasite intensity and duration of the infection. Simulations were based on the general TH1-TH2 immunological paradigm that proposes the polarization of the host immune response towards one of the two subsets of T helper cells. Our findings suggest that myxoma infections contribute to alter host susceptibility to the nematode, as co-infected rabbits showed higher worm intensity compared with virus negative hosts. Results also suggest that myxoma disrupts the ability of the host to clear T. retortaeformis as worm intensities were consistently high and remained high in old rabbits. However, the co-infection model has to include some immune-mediated nematode regulation to be consistent with field data, indicating that the TH1-TH2 dichotomy is not complete. We conclude that seasonal myxoma outbreaks enhance host susceptibility to the nematode and generate highly infected hosts that remain infectious for a longer time. Finally, the virus-nematode co-infection increases heterogeneities among individuals and potentially has a large effect on parasite transmission.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering