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Virulence evolution in mixed-species infections


Typically organisms face simultaneous attack from numerous pathogens. Despite this, interactions between different parasite species within the same host have not been investigated extensively. Studies indicate that competition for host resources between parasite species in the same host does occur, but the importance of this competition for disease evolution remains largely unresolved. In particular competition between different parasite species may have important implications for the levels of virulence experienced by the host population.
Greater understanding of within-host dynamics between interacting parasite species should therefore help us understand what factors affect virulence and the extent to which parasites can manipulate and overcome the host immune system.
This knowledge will have important implications for medical intervention strategies and the biological control of pests. We propose to study within-host competition between two microsporidian parasites (Vavraia culicis/Edhazardia aedis) in the Aedes aegypti mosquito-parasite model system. The mosquito Aedes aegypti is vector of a number of human diseases including dengue and yellow fever.
Through comprehensive experimentation we will elucidate how infection with two parasite species affects various life-history traits of the host and how parasite growth and virulence are affected through time. This project will employ a wide range of experimental techniques to tackle and understand the evolution of virulence in mixed infections.

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