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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e49137. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049137. Epub 2012 Nov 8.

Probing mixed-genotype infections II: high multiplicity in natural infections of the trypanosomatid, Crithidia bombi, in its host, Bombus spp.

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  • 1Institute of Integrative Biology, ETH Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.


Mixed-genotype infections have major consequences for many essential elements of host-parasite interactions. With genetic exchange between co-infecting parasite genotypes increased diversity among parasite offspring and the emergence of novel genotypes from infected hosts is possible. We here investigated mixed- genotype infections using the host, Bombus spp. and its trypanosome parasite Crithidia bombi as our study case. The natural infections of C. bombi were genotyped with a novel method for a representative sample of workers and spring queens in Switzerland. We found that around 60% of all infected hosts showed mixed-genotype infections with an average of 2.47±0.22 (S.E.) and 3.65±1.02 genotypes per worker or queen, respectively. Queens, however, harboured up to 29 different genotypes. Based on the genotypes of co-infecting strains, these could be putatively assigned to either 'primary' and 'derived' genotypes - the latter resulting from genetic exchange among the primary genotypes. High genetic relatedness among co-infecting derived but not primary genotypes supported this scenario. Co-infection in queens seems to be a major driver for the diversity of genotypes circulating in host populations.

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