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Endemic infection can shape exposure to novel pathogens: Pathogen co‐occurrence networks in the Serengeti lions

Fountain‐Jones, Nicholas M., Packer, Craig, Jacquot, Maude, Blanchet, F. Guillaume, Terio, Karen, Craft, Meggan E.
Ecology letters 2019 v.22 no.6 pp. 904-913
Felidae, community ecology, morbidity, mortality, pathogens
Pathogens are embedded in a complex network of microparasites that can collectively or individually alter disease dynamics and outcomes. Endemic pathogens that infect an individual in the first years of life, for example, can either facilitate or compete with subsequent pathogens thereby exacerbating or ameliorating morbidity and mortality. Pathogen associations are ubiquitous but poorly understood, particularly in wild populations. We report here on 10 years of serological and molecular data in African lions, leveraging comprehensive demographic and behavioural data to test if endemic pathogens shape subsequent infection by epidemic pathogens. We combine network and community ecology approaches to assess broad network structure and characterise associations between pathogens across spatial and temporal scales. We found significant non‐random structure in the lion‐pathogen co‐occurrence network and identified both positive and negative associations between endemic and epidemic pathogens. Our results provide novel insights on the complex associations underlying pathogen co‐occurrence networks.