Host sexual dimorphism affects the outcome of within-host pathogen competition

Stephen A.Y. Gipson, Luis Jimenez, Matthew D. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Natural infections often consist of multiple pathogens of the same or different species. When coinfections occur, pathogens compete for access to host resources and fitness is determined by how well a pathogen can reproduce compared to its competitors. Yet not all hosts provide the same resource pool. Males and females, in particular, commonly vary in both their acquisition of resources and investment in immunity, but their ability to modify any competition between different pathogens remains unknown. Using the Daphnia magna–Pasteuria ramosa model system, we exposed male and female hosts to either a single genotype infection or coinfections consisting of two pathogen genotypes of varying levels of virulence. We found that coinfections within females favored the transmission of the more virulent pathogen genotype, whereas coinfections within male hosts resulted in equal transmission of competing pathogen genotypes. This contrast became less pronounced when the least virulent pathogen was able to establish an infection first, suggesting that the influence of host sex is shaped by priority effects. We suggest that sex is a form of host heterogeneity that may influence the evolution of virulence within coinfection contexts and that one sex may be a reservoir for pathogen genetic diversity in nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1443-1455
Number of pages13
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • Coinfection
  • Daphnia magna
  • Pasteuria ramosa
  • priority effects
  • virulence evolution
  • within-host interactions

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