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Trypanosome co-infections increase in a declining marsupial population

Godfrey, S.S., Keatley, S., Botero Gomez, A., Thompson, C.K., Wayne, A.F., Lymbery, A.J.ORCID: 0000-0002-0542-3446, Morris, K. and Thompson, R.C.A. (2018) Trypanosome co-infections increase in a declining marsupial population. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, 7 (2). pp. 221-227.

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Understanding the impacts of parasites on wildlife is growing in importance as diseases pose a threat to wildlife populations. Woylie (syn. brush-tailed bettong, Bettongia penicillata) populations have undergone enigmatic declines in south-western Western Australia over the past decade. Trypanosomes have been suggested as a possible factor contributing towards these declines because of their high prevalence in the declining population. We asked whether temporal patterns of infection with Trypanosoma spp. were associated with the decline patterns of the host, or if other factors (host sex, body condition, co-infection or rainfall) were more influential in predicting infection patterns. Species-specific nested PCRs were used to detect the two most common trypanosomes (T. copemani and T. vegrandis) from 444 woylie blood samples collected between 2006 and 2012. Time relative to the decline (year) and an interaction with co-infection by the other trypanosome best explained patterns of infection for both trypanosomes. The prevalence of single species infections for both T. copemani and T. vegrandis was lower after the population crash, however, the occurrence of co-infections increased after the crash compared to before the crash. Our results suggest an interaction between the two parasites with the decline of their host, leading to a higher level of co-infection after the decline. We discuss the possible mechanisms that may have led to a higher level of co-infection after the population crash, and highlight the importance of considering co-infection when investigating the role of parasites in species declines.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier Limited
Copyright: © 2018 Published by Elsevier Ltd on behalf of Australian Society for Parasitology
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