Borrelia afzelii alters reproductive success in a rodent host

The impact of a pathogen on the fitness and behaviour of its natural host depends upon the host–parasite relationship in a given set of environmental conditions. Here, we experimentally investigated the effects of Borrelia afzelii, one of the aetiological agents of Lyme disease in humans, on the fitness of its natural rodent host, the bank vole (Myodes glareolus), in semi-natural conditions with two contrasting host population densities. Our results show that B. afzelii can modify the reproductive success and spacing behaviour of its rodent host, whereas host survival was not affected. Infection impaired the breeding probability of large bank voles. Reproduction was hastened in infected females without alteration of the offspring size at birth. At low density, infected males produced fewer offspring, fertilized fewer females and had lower mobility than uninfected individuals. Meanwhile, the infection did not affect the proportion of offspring produced or the proportion of mating partner in female bank voles. Our study is the first to show that B. afzelii infection alters the reproductive success of the natural host. The effects observed could reflect the sickness behaviour due to the infection or they could be a consequence of a manipulation of the host behaviour by the bacteria.
Source: Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences - Category: Biology Authors: Tags: ecology, evolution, health and disease and epidemiology Source Type: research

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