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Am Nat. 2010 Jan;175(1):106-15. doi: 10.1086/648672.

Pathogen dose infectivity curves as a method to analyze the distribution of host susceptibility: a quantitative assessment of maternal effects after food stress and pathogen exposure.

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Zoologisches Institut, Evolutionsbiologie, Universit├Ąt Basel, Vesalgasse 1, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland.


Stress conditions have been found to change the susceptibility of hosts or their offspring to infection. The usual method of testing at just one parasite dose level does not allow conclusions on the distribution of susceptibility. To better understand the epidemiology and evolution of host-parasite systems, however, knowledge about the distribution of host susceptibility, the parameters that characterize it, and how it changes in response to environmental conditions is required. We investigated transgenerational effects of different stress factors by exposing Daphnia magna to standard conditions, to low food levels, or to a high dose of the bacterial pathogen Pasteuria ramosa and then measuring the susceptibility of the offspring to different spore doses of the parasite. For the analysis we used a mathematical model that predicts the fraction of infected hosts at different parasite doses, allowing us to estimate the mean and variance of host susceptibility. We find that low food levels reduce both the mean and the variance of offspring susceptibility. Parasite exposure, on the other hand, widens the offspring's susceptibility distribution without affecting its mean. Our analysis uncovered previously unknown transgenerational effects on the distribution of susceptibilities. The finding of an alteration in the variance of susceptibility to infection has implications for host and parasite dynamics and can contribute to our understanding of the stability of host-parasite interactions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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