Disease ecology meets ecological immunology: understanding the links between organismal immunity and infection dynamics in natural populations
Article first published online: 22 JUL 2010
© 2010 The Authors. Functional Ecology © 2010 British Ecological Society
Special Issue: ECOLOGICAL IMMUNOLOGY
Volume 25, Issue 1, pages 48–60, February 2011
How to Cite
Hawley, D. M. and Altizer, S. M. (2011), Disease ecology meets ecological immunology: understanding the links between organismal immunity and infection dynamics in natural populations. Functional Ecology, 25: 48–60. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2435.2010.01753.x
- Issue published online: 21 JAN 2011
- Article first published online: 22 JUL 2010
- Received 17 February 2010; accepted 22 June 2010 Handling Editor: Daniel Ardia
- immune defence;
- sickness behaviour;
- within-host dynamics
1. Ecological immunology and disease ecology are two relatively young disciplines that apply ecological approaches and principles to traditionally non-ecological fields. In both cases, an ecological perspective has allowed new insights to emerge by focusing attention on variation over space and time, and by emphasizing the role of the environment in shaping individual responses and the outcome of host-pathogen interactions. Here we review the growing conceptual interface between these two rapidly evolving fields.
2. Areas of synergy between ecological immunology and disease ecology aim to translate variation in within-host processes (e.g. immunity) into between-host dynamics (e.g. parasite transmission). Emerging areas of synergy include potential immune mechanisms that underlie host heterogeneity in disease susceptibility, teasing apart the effects of environmental factors such as seasonality and climate on host susceptibility and pathogen dynamics, and predicting the outcome of co-infection by functionally distinct groups of parasites that elicit different immune responses.
3. In some cases, practical limitations have constrained the merging of ideas in ecological immunology and disease ecology. We discuss several logistical challenges, including dissecting the relative roles of host exposure and susceptibility, establishing links between measures of immunity and pathogen resistance in wild populations, and incorporating relevant immune variation into prevailing disease ecology modeling frameworks.
4. Future work at the interface of these two fields should advance understanding of life-history theory, host-pathogen dynamics, and physiological ecology, and will also contribute to targeted approaches for wildlife health and zoonotic disease prevention.