Many organisms face a wide variety of biotic and abiotic stressors which reduce individual survival, interacting to further reduce fitness. Here we studied the effects of two such interacting stressors: immunotoxicant exposure and parasite infection. We model the dynamics of a within-host infection and the associated immune response of an individual. We consider both the indirect sub-lethal effects on immunosuppression and the direct effects on health and mortality of individuals exposed to toxicants. We demonstrate that sub-lethal exposure to toxicants can promote infection through the suppression of the immune system. This happens through the depletion of the immune response which causes rapid proliferation in parasite load. We predict that the within-host parasite density is maximised by an intermediate toxicant exposure, rather than continuing to increase with toxicant exposure. In addition, high toxicant exposure can alter cellular regulation and cause the breakdown of normal healthy tissue, from which we infer higher mortality risk of the host. We classify this breakdown into three phases of increasing toxicant stress, and demonstrate the range of conditions under which toxicant exposure causes failure at the within-host level. These phases are determined by the relationship between the immunity status, overall cellular health and the level of toxicant exposure. We discuss the implications of our model in the context of individual bee health. Our model provides an assessment of how pesticide stress and infection interact to cause the breakdown of the within-host dynamics of individual bees.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Statistics and Probability
- Modelling and Simulation
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Applied Mathematics