Variation in the intensity and duration of infections is often driven by variation in the network and strength of host immune responses. While many of the immune mechanisms and components are known for parasitic helminths, how these relationships change from single to multiple infections and impact helminth dynamics remains largely unclear. Here, we used laboratory data from a rabbit-helminth system and developed a within-host model of infection to investigate different scenarios of immune regulation in rabbits infected with one or two helminth species. Model selection suggests that the immunological pathways activated against Trichostrongylus retortaeformis and Graphidium strigosum are similar. However, differences in the strength of these immune signals lead to the contrasting dynamics of infections, where the first parasite is rapidly cleared and the latter persists with high intensities. In addition to the reactions identified in single infections, rabbits with both helminths also activate new pathways that asymmetrically affect the dynamics of the two species. These new signals alter the intensities but not the general trend of the infections. The type of interactions described can be expected in many other host-helminth systems. Our immune framework is flexible enough to capture different mechanisms and their complexity, and provides essential insights to the understanding of multi-helminth infections.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Modeling and Simulation
- Molecular Biology
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
- Computational Theory and Mathematics