Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Animal and plant species can harbour microbes that provide them with protection against enemies. These beneficial microbes can be a significant component of host defence that complement or replaces a repertoire of immunity, but they can also be costly. Given their impact on host and parasite fitness, defensive microbes have the potential to influence host-parasite interactions on an evolutionary timescale. RESULTS: Using a phenotypic framework, we explore the evolutionary and coevolutionary dynamics of a host-parasite interaction in the presence of defensive microbes. We show that costs of host-defensive microbe systems are critical in determining whether a defensive microbe based system or an immune system provides better host protection investment. Partitioning the coevolutionary dynamics yields testable predictions. The density of defensive microbes influences the strength of selection resulting from host - defensive microbe - parasite coevolutionary interactions. We find that they lessen the negative effects of infection on hosts and reduce infectivity by directly competing with parasites. CONCLUSIONS: Defensive microbes might thus play a central role in host-parasite interactions, by outright replacing host-based defences, engaging in within-host competition with parasites, and ultimately driving tripartite coevolutionary dynamics.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Evol Biol

Publication Date





Defensive symbiosis, Fitness set, Host-parasite coevolution, Life-history modelling, Theoretical evolutionary biology, Animals, Bacteria, Biological Coevolution, Biological Evolution, Host-Parasite Interactions, Immunity, Parasites, Selection, Genetic