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J Invertebr Pathol. 2005 Jul;89(3):251-7.

Determinants of virulence for the parasite Nosema whitei in its host Tribolium castaneum.

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Ecology and Evolution, ETH Zürich, ETH-Zentrum NW, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland.


For many parasites, especially those that obligately kill the host for transmission, host age is crucially important to determine success. Here, we have experimentally investigated this relationship with the microsporidian parasite, Nosema whitei, in its host, the Red Flour Beetle, Tribolium castaneum. We find that infection is only possible in young larvae and that spore load at the time of transmission (i.e., host death) correlates with host body size. The data suggested that an infection by N. whitei prolongs the life span of the infected larva and prevents them from pupation. Together, virulence to the host and success for the parasite is mainly determined by the host age at infection. The patterns are consistent with theoretical predictions for obligate killer parasites.

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