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Oecologia. 2017 Apr;183(4):1031-1040. doi: 10.1007/s00442-017-3822-7. Epub 2017 Jan 30.

Host resistance and tolerance of parasitic gut worms depend on resource availability.

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Department of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA.
Department of Integrative Biology, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA.
Department of Molecular Biology, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, CO, USA.


Resource availability can significantly alter host-parasite dynamics. Abundant food can provide more resources for hosts to resist infections, but also increase host tolerance of infections by reducing competition between hosts and parasites for food. Whether abundant food favors host resistance or tolerance (or both) might depend on the type of resource that the parasite exploits (e.g., host tissue vs. food), which can vary based on the stage of infection. In our study, we evaluated how low and high resource diets affect Cuban tree frog (Osteopilus septentrionalis) resistance and tolerance of a skin-penetrating, gut nematode Aplectana sp. at each stage of the infection. Compared to a low resource diet, a high resource diet enhanced frog resistance to worm penetration and tolerance while worms traveled to the gut. In contrast, a low resource diet increased resistance to establishment of the infection. After the infection established and worms could access food resources in the gut, a high resource diet enhanced host tolerance of parasites. On a high resource diet, parasitized frogs consumed significantly more food than non-parasitized frogs; when food was then restricted, mass of non-parasitized frogs did not change, whereas mass of parasitized frogs decreased significantly. Thus, a high resource diet increased frog tolerance of established worms because frogs could fully compensate for energy lost to the parasites. Our study shows that host-parasite dynamics are influenced by the effect of resource availability on host resistance and tolerance, which depends on when parasites have access to food and the stage of infection.


Amphibians; Disease dynamics; Ecoimmunology; Helminths; Host defense; Nematodes

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