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  1. Abstract Individual animals in natural populations tend to host diverse parasite species concurrently over their lifetimes. In free‐living ecological communities, organismal life histories shape interactions with their environment, which ultimately forms the basis of ecological succession. However, the structure and dynamics of mammalian parasite communities have not been contextualized in terms of primary ecological succession, in part because few datasets track occupancy and abundance of multiple parasites in wild hosts starting at birth. Here, we studied community dynamics of 12 subtypes of protozoan microparasites ( Theileria spp.) in a herd of African buffalo. We show that Theileria communities followed predictable patterns of succession underpinned by four different parasite life history strategies. However, in contrast to many free‐living communities, network complexity decreased with host age. Examining parasite communities through the lens of succession may better inform the effect of complex within host eco‐evolutionary dynamics on infection outcomes, including parasite co‐existence through the lifetime of the host. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 1, 2024
  2. Extensive research in well-studied animal models underscores the importance of commensal gastrointestinal (gut) microbes to animal physiology. Gut microbes have been shown to impact dietary digestion, mediate infection, and even modify behavior and cognition. Given the large physiological and pathophysiological contribution microbes provide their host, it is reasonable to assume that the vertebrate gut microbiome may also impact the fitness, health and ecology of wildlife. In accordance with this expectation, an increasing number of investigations have considered the role of the gut microbiome in wildlife ecology, health, and conservation. To help promote the development of this nascent field, we need to dissolve the technical barriers prohibitive to performing wildlife microbiome research. The present review discusses the 16S rRNA gene microbiome research landscape, clarifying best practices in microbiome data generation and analysis, with particular emphasis on unique situations that arise during wildlife investigations. Special consideration is given to topics relevant for microbiome wildlife research from sample collection to molecular techniques for data generation, to data analysis strategies. Our hope is that this article not only calls for greater integration of microbiome analyses into wildlife ecology and health studies but provides researchers with the technical framework needed to successfully conduct such investigations. 
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  3. Pathogen interactions arising during coinfection can exacerbate disease severity, for example when the immune response mounted against one pathogen negatively affects defense of another. It is also possible that host immune responses to a pathogen, shaped by historical evolutionary interactions between host and pathogen, may modify host immune defenses in ways that have repercussions for other pathogens. In this case, negative interactions between two pathogens could emerge even in the absence of concurrent infection. Parasitic worms and tuberculosis (TB) are involved in one of the most geographically extensive of pathogen interactions, and during coinfection worms can exacerbate TB disease outcomes. Here, we show that in a wild mammal natural resistance to worms affects bovine tuberculosis (BTB) severity independently of active worm infection. We found that worm-resistant individuals were more likely to die of BTB than were nonresistant individuals, and their disease progressed more quickly. Anthelmintic treatment moderated, but did not eliminate, the resistance effect, and the effects of resistance and treatment were opposite and additive, with untreated, resistant individuals experiencing the highest mortality. Furthermore, resistance and anthelmintic treatment had nonoverlapping effects on BTB pathology. The effects of resistance manifested in the lungs (the primary site of BTB infection), while the effects of treatment manifested almost entirely in the lymph nodes (the site of disseminated disease), suggesting that resistance and active worm infection affect BTB progression via distinct mechanisms. Our findings reveal that interactions between pathogens can occur as a consequence of processes arising on very different timescales.

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  4. Novel parasites can have wide-ranging impacts, not only on host populations, but also on the resident parasite community. Historically, impacts of novel parasites have been assessed by examining pairwise interactions between parasite species. However, parasite communities are complex networks of interacting species. Here we used multivariate taxonomic and trait-based approaches to determine how parasite community composition changed when African buffalo ( Syncerus caffer ) acquired an emerging disease, bovine tuberculosis (BTB). Both taxonomic and functional parasite richness increased significantly in animals that acquired BTB than in those that did not. Thus, the presence of BTB seems to catalyze extraordinary shifts in community composition. There were no differences in overall parasite taxonomic composition between infected and uninfected individuals, however. The trait-based analysis revealed an increase in direct-transmitted, quickly replicating parasites following BTB infection. This study demonstrates that trait-based approaches provide insight into parasite community dynamics in the context of emerging infections. 
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