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Relative host body condition and food availability influence epidemic dynamics: a Poecilia reticulata-Gyrodactylus turnbulli host-parasite model



Understanding disease transmission is important to species management and human health. Host body condition, nutrition and disease susceptibility interact in a complex manner, and while the individual effects of these variables are well known, our understanding of how they interact and translate to population dynamics is limited. Our objective was to determine whether host relative body condition influences epidemic dynamics, and how this relationship is affected by food availability. Poecilia reticulata (guppies) of roughly similar size were selected and assembled randomly into populations of 10 guppies assigned to 3 different food availability treatments, and the relative condition index (Kn) of each fish was calculated. We infected 1 individual per group (‘source’ fish) with Gyrodactyus turnbulli and counted parasites on each fish every other day for 10 days. Epidemic parameters for each population were analysed using generalized linear models. High host Kn—particularly that of the ‘source’ fish—exerted a positive effect on incidence, peak parasite burden, and the degree of parasite aggregation. Low food availability increased the strength of the associations with peak burden and aggregation. Our findings suggest that host Kn and food availability interact to influence epidemic dynamics, and that the condition of the individual that brings the parasite into the host population has a profound impact on the spread of infection.


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*Corresponding author: McGill University Stewart Biology Building, 1205 Avenue Docteur Penfield, Room W3/2, Montréal QC H3A 1B1, Canada. Tel: +514 398 3156. Fax: +514 398 5069. E-mail:


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Relative host body condition and food availability influence epidemic dynamics: a Poecilia reticulata-Gyrodactylus turnbulli host-parasite model



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