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Interactions between micro- and macroparasites predict microparasite species richness across primates.

Abstract

Most wild animals face concurrent challenges by multiple infectious organisms, and immunological responses triggered by some parasites may increase susceptibility to other infectious agents. Immune-mediated interactions among parasites have been investigated among individuals in a population, but less is known about broader comparative patterns. We investigated the "macro-micro facilitation hypothesis" that higher helminth prevalence in a host species provides greater opportunities for intracellular parasites to invade, resulting in higher richness of intracellular microparasites. We obtained data on average helminth prevalence for 70 primate hosts, along with data on richness of intra- and extracellular infectious organisms. Using Bayesian phylogenetic methods, we found that primate species with higher overall helminth prevalence harbored more species of intracellular microparasites, while the positive association between helminth prevalence and extracellular microparasite species richness was weaker. The relationships held after controlling for potentially confounding variables, but associations were not found in focused tests of prevalence for six genera of well-studied helminths. The magnitude of support and effect sizes for overall helminth prevalence on intracellular microparasite species richness was similar to support for other well recognized ecological and life-history drivers of parasite species richness. Our findings therefore suggest that intrahost parasite interactions are as important as some ecological characteristics of hosts in accounting for parasite richness across host species.

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