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Microbiologyopen. 2012 Dec;1(4):362-72. doi: 10.1002/mbo3.35. Epub 2012 Sep 23.

Seasonal variability of prevalence and occurrence of multiple infections shape the population structure of Crithidia bombi, an intestinal parasite of bumblebees (Bombus spp.).

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  • 1Institut für Biologie, Molekulare Ökologie, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Hoher Weg 4, 06099, Halle (Saale), Germany.


Ergonomic growth phases of annual social insect societies strongly influence horizontally transmitted parasites. Herein, we focused on the impact of temporal changes in host demography on the population structure of a horizontally transmitted parasite. Seasonal fluctuations in prevalence and the occurrence of multiple infections of the gut parasite Crithidia bombi were analyzed in repeatedly sampled populations of two common bumblebee (Bombus spp.) species. Prevalence of C. bombi was greatest in the middle of the foraging season and coincided with the maximal occurrence of multiple infections. Both decline later in the season. The genetic structure of the parasite population also showed strong seasonal fluctuations with a drastic decline in effective population size and an increase in linkage disequilibrium when infection rates were highest. These effects are mainly attributable to significant changes in parasite allele frequencies leading to selection of specific alleles and increasing the frequency of homozygote genotypes in the middle of the season. Within host, competition between parasite genotypes might explain the observed pattern leading to selection of these alleles, and thus a boost of homozygote genotypes in the middle of the season. Toward the end of the season, selection appears to relax and we observed a recovery in linkage equilibrium, as well as an increase in effective population size. This might be explained by genetic exchange in these trypanosomes in natural populations.

© 2012 The Authors. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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