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Host lifespan and the evolution of resistance to multiple parasites

Donnelly, R., White, A., Boots, M.
Journal of evolutionary biology 2017 v.30 no.3 pp. 561-570
acute course, adaptive immunity, evolution, hosts, immune response, infectious diseases, longevity, models, parasites, superinfection
Hosts are typically challenged by multiple parasites, but to date theory on the evolution of resistance has mainly focused on single infections. We develop a series of models that examine the impact of multiple parasites on the evolution of resistance under the assumption that parasites coexist at the host population scale as a consequence of superinfection. In this way, we are able to explicitly examine the impact of ecological dynamics on the evolutionary outcome. We use our models to address a key question of how host lifespan affects investment in resistance to multiple parasites. We show that investment in costly resistance depends on the specificity of the immune response and on whether or not the focal parasite leads to more acute infection than the co‐circulating parasite. A key finding is that investment in resistance always increases as the immune response becomes more general independently of whether it is the focal or the co‐circulating parasite that exploits the host most aggressively. Long‐lived hosts always invest more than short‐lived hosts in both general resistance and resistance that is specific to relatively acute focal parasites. However, for specific resistance to parasites that are less acute than co‐circulating parasites it is the short‐lived hosts that are predicted to invest most. We show that these results apply whatever the mode of defence, that is whether it is through avoidance or through increased recovery, with or without acquired immunity, or through acquired immunity itself. As a whole, our results emphasize the importance of considering multiple parasites in determining optimal immune investment in eco‐evolutionary systems.