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Helminths as vectors of pathogens in vertebrate hosts: a theoretical approach

Perkins, Sarah E. ORCID: and Fenton, Andy 2006. Helminths as vectors of pathogens in vertebrate hosts: a theoretical approach. International Journal for Parasitology 36 (8) , pp. 887-894. 10.1016/j.ijpara.2006.04.001

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Pathogens frequently use vectors to facilitate transmission between hosts and, for vertebrate hosts, the vectors are typically ectoparasitic arthropods. However, other parasites that are intimately associated with their hosts may also be ideal candidate vectors; namely the parasitic helminths. Here, we present empirical evidence that helminth vectoring of pathogens occurs in a range of vertebrate systems by a variety of helminth taxa. Using a novel theoretical framework we explore the dynamics of helminth vectoring and determine which host–helminth–pathogen characteristics may favour the evolution of helminth vectoring. We use two theoretical models: the first is a population dynamic model amalgamated from standard macro- and microparasite models, which serves as a framework for investigation of within-host interactions between co-infecting pathogens and helminths. The second is an evolutionary model, which we use to predict the ecological conditions under which we would expect helminth vectoring to evolve. We show that, like arthropod vectors, helminth vectors increase pathogen fitness. However, unlike arthropod vectors, helminth vectoring increases the pathogenic impact on the host and may allow the evolution of high pathogen virulence. We show that concomitant infection of a host with a helminth and pathogen are not necessarily independent of one another, due to helminth vectoring of microparasites, with profound consequences for pathogen persistence and the impact of disease on the host population.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Uncontrolled Keywords: Helminths; Vectors; Helminth vectoring; Microparasite; Pathogen; Co-infection; Virulence; Evolution
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0020-7519
Last Modified: 27 Oct 2022 08:38

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