The community ecology of pathogens: Coinfection, coexistence and community composition

Eric W. Seabloom, Elizabeth T. Borer, Kevin Gross, Amy E. Kendig, Christelle Lacroix, Charles E. Mitchell, Erin A. Mordecai, Alison G. Power

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Disease and community ecology share conceptual and theoretical lineages, and there has been a resurgence of interest in strengthening links between these fields. Building on recent syntheses focused on the effects of host community composition on single pathogen systems, we examine pathogen (microparasite) communities using a stochastic metacommunity model as a starting point to bridge community and disease ecology perspectives. Such models incorporate the effects of core community processes, such as ecological drift, selection and dispersal, but have not been extended to incorporate host-pathogen interactions, such as immunosuppression or synergistic mortality, that are central to disease ecology. We use a two-pathogen susceptible-infected (SI) model to fill these gaps in the metacommunity approach; however, SI models can be intractable for examining species-diverse, spatially structured systems. By placing disease into a framework developed for community ecology, our synthesis highlights areas ripe for progress, including a theoretical framework that incorporates host dynamics, spatial structuring and evolutionary processes, as well as the data needed to test the predictions of such a model. Our synthesis points the way for this framework and demonstrates that a deeper understanding of pathogen community dynamics will emerge from approaches working at the interface of disease and community ecology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-415
Number of pages15
JournalEcology letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS.


  • Coinfection
  • Community ecology
  • Disease ecology
  • Dispersal
  • Drift
  • Metacommunity
  • Metapopulation
  • Pathogen
  • Selection
  • Speciation


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