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Multiple pathogenic infections can influence disease transmission and virulence, and have important consequences for understanding the community ecology and epidemiology of host-pathogen interactions. Here the population and evolutionary dynamics of a host-pathogen interaction with free-living stages are explored in the presence of a non-lethal synergist that hosts must tolerate. Through the coupled effects on pathogen transmission, host mass gain and allometry it is shown how investing in tolerance to a non-lethal synergist can lead to a broad range of different population dynamics. The effects of the synergist on pathogen fitness are explored through a series of life-history trait trade-offs. Coupling trade-offs between pathogen yield and pathogen speed of kill and the presence of a synergist favour parasites that have faster speeds of kill. This evolutionary change in pathogen characteristics is predicted to lead to stable population dynamics. Evolutionary analysis of tolerance of the synergist (strength of synergy) and lethal pathogen yield show that decreasing tolerance allows alternative pathogen strategies to invade and replace extant strategies. This evolutionary change is likely to destabilize the host-pathogen interaction leading to population cycles. Correlated trait effects between speed of kill and tolerance (strength of synergy) show how these traits can interact to affect the potential for the coexistence of multiple pathogen strategies. Understanding the consequences of these evolutionary relationships is important for the both the evolutionary and population dynamics of host-pathogen interactions.

Original publication




Journal article


J Theor Biol

Publication Date





567 - 575


Animals, Biological Evolution, Ecosystem, Evolution, Molecular, Host-Parasite Interactions, Humans, Models, Biological, Models, Theoretical, Parasites, Parasitic Diseases, Symbiosis