Dr. Kristi Montooth (University of Nebraska)

Dr. Justin Buchanan (Vanderbilt University)

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During infection, are host and pathogen diets in line, or in conflict?

What we know

  • When exposed to or infected by pathogens, hosts typically alter their intake of total calories and specific macronutrients.

  • Hosts also exhibit altered physiologies such as changes in metabolic rates and metabolic pathways like glycolysis or ketosis.

  • Pathogens and parasites rely on host nutrients for their own growth and development and can manipulate host behavior and physiology to their own ends.

  • Just as pathogens can respond to vaccines and other control measures, they can also respond to changes in host resources and physiology.

What we DON’T know

  • Do shifts in calorie intake, macronutrient preferences, and downstream physiologies arise as a defense strategy, and if so, do they serve in resistance (and what type of resistance exactly) or tolerance?

  • How do these shifts affect pathogen fitness and therefore evolution?

Who Cares?

  • Numerous medical and veterinary interventions, livestock practices, and other anthropogenic factors (e.g., eutrophication, fast food, bird feeders) alter the resources available to hosts (and therefore their pathogens/parasites) — while also administering drugs to control infections…..these practices, therefore, could be designed smarter (i.e., more “evolution-proof”) to help the host and starve the pathogen of key nutrients necessary to develop virulence factors and mechanisms of drug resistance.

  • From a basic science perspective, a better understanding of the resource-tug of war that defines host-pathogen/parasite interactions can advance our understanding of some of the most abundant organisms on the planet, how they evolved, and co-evolved with their hosts.

Associated publications

Hite. J.L., J. Buchanan, C.E. Cressler, and K.M. Montooth. in prep. Genetic variation in host physiology use.

This represents my new work with Drosophila…stay tuned for more soon!