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Keywords:

  • Consumer–resource;
  • Daphnia–Metschnikowia;
  • epidemic;
  • host–parasite;
  • resource quality;
  • transmission rate

Abstract

Epidemiologists increasingly realize that species interactions (e.g. selective predation) can determine when epidemics start and end. We hypothesize here that resource quality can also strongly influence disease dynamics: epidemics can be inhibited when resource quality for hosts is too poor and too good. In three lakes, resource quality for the zooplankton host (Daphnia dentifera) was poor when fungal epidemics (Metschnikowia bicuspidata) commenced and increased as epidemics waned. Experiments using variation in algal food showed that resource quality had conflicting effects on underlying epidemiology: high-quality food induced large production of infective propagules (spores) and high birth rate but also reduced transmission. A model then illustrated how these underlying correlations can inhibit the start of epidemics (when spore production/birth rate are too low) but also catalyse their end (when transmission becomes too low). This resource quality mechanism is likely to interface with other ones controlling disease dynamics and warrants closer evaluation.