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Interacting parasites

January 1, 2010

Parasitism is the most popular life-style on Earth, and many vertebrates host more than one kind of parasite at a time. A common assumption is that parasite species rarely interact, because they often exploit different tissues in a host, and this use of discrete resources limits competition (1). On page 243 of this issue, however, Telfer et al. (2) provide a convincing case of a highly interactive parasite community in voles, and show how infection with one parasite can affect susceptibility to others. If some human parasites are equally interactive, our current, disease-by-disease approach to modeling and treating infectious diseases is inadequate (3).

Telfer et al.'s study—which involved tracking infections of four different parasites by taking blood samples from nearly 6000 wild voles (Microtus agrestis) over 5 years—helps highlight our growing understanding of how parasites can interact in complex ways (see the figure). What are some of the take-home messages?

Publication Year 2010
Title Interacting parasites
DOI 10.1126/science.1196915
Authors Kevin D. Lafferty
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science
Index ID 70003306
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center