Why infectious disease research needs community ecology

If you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a recent Science paper by Johnson et al. (2015) entitled, “Why infectious disease research needs community ecology.” If you’re a disease ecologist, it probably won’t come as a surprise to you that infectious disease research needs community ecology. If you’re not a disease ecologist, check out this paper for a quick, informative read!

I was happy to see that Johnson et al. (2015) emphasized the importance of looking at symbiont communities as well as host communities when considering the spread of parasites and pathogens. The importance of symbiont communities is still not as widely recognized as I think it should be, and this paper does a great job of giving concrete examples of systems where coinfection by parasites/pathogens or the presence of non-pathogenic symbionts influence the spread of a single parasite within a host population or community.

If you’re looking for more examples where understanding the spread of parasites and pathogens required a detailed understanding of community ecology, check out some of these previous blog posts:

Considering symbiont communities is important:

Symbionts protect hosts from parasitoids

Diverse symbiont communities protect hosts from several natural enemies

Symbionts protect hosts from parasites

Considering host communities is important:

Host community diversity may reduce focal host infection risk

Multiple host and vector species for prairie dog plague

Spillover of pathogens from wildlife to livestock to humans

Fecal transplants and other kinds of microbial community restoration

Competition among host species influences transmission

Considering heterogeneity among individuals and species is important:

House finches and Mg

Tasmanian devils and facial tumor disease

The superhosts!

Mouse raves and contact heterogeneity

Coinfection and superspreaders

Reference:

Johnson, P.T.J., J.C. de Roode, and A. Fenton. 2015. Why infectious disease research needs community ecology. Science 349(6252): 1259504.

One thought on “Why infectious disease research needs community ecology

  1. Pingback: Advice on how to become a successful parasite ecologist, Part II: Pieter Johnson | Parasite Ecology

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