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Am Nat. 2008 Feb;171(2):176-82. doi: 10.1086/525257.

Pathogen interactions, population cycles, and phase shifts.

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  • 1School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3TL, Wales, UK.


Interspecific pathogen interactions can profoundly affect pathogen population dynamics and the efficacy of control strategies. However, many pathogens exhibit cyclic abundance patterns (e.g., seasonality), and temporal asynchrony between interacting pathogens could reduce the impact of those interactions. Here we use an extension of our previously published model to investigate the effects of cycles on pathogen interaction. We demonstrate that host immune memory can maintain the impact of an interaction, even when the effector pathogen abundance is low or the pathogen is absent. Paradoxically, immune memory can result in pathogens interacting more strongly when temporally out of phase. We find that interactions between species can result in changes to the temporal pattern of the affected species. We further demonstrate that this may be observed in a natural host-pathogen system. Given the continuing debate regarding the relevance of pathogen interactions in natural systems and increasing concern about treatment strategies for coinfections, both the discovery of a shift in cycle in empirical data and the mechanism by which we identified it are important. Finally, because the model structure used here is analogous to models of a simple predator-prey system, we also consider the consequences of these findings in the context of that system.

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