Heterogeneities in infection outcomes across species: sex and tissue differences in virus susceptibility

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Species vary in their susceptibility to pathogens, and this can alter the ability of a pathogen to infect a novel host. However, many factors can generate heterogeneity in infection outcomes, obscuring our ability to understand pathogen emergence. Such heterogeneities can alter the consistency of responses across individuals and host species. For example, sexual dimorphism in susceptibility means males are often intrinsically more susceptible than females (although this can vary by host and pathogen). Further, we know little about whether the tissues infected by a pathogen in one host are the same in another species, and how this relates to the harm a pathogen does to its host. Here, we first take a comparative approach to examine sex differences in susceptibility across 31 species of Drosophilidae infected with Drosophila C Virus (DCV). We found a strong positive inter-specific correlation in viral load between males and females, with a close to 1:1 relationship, suggesting that susceptibility to DCV across species is not sex specific. Next, we made comparisons of the tissue tropism of DCV across seven species of fly. We found differences in viral load between the tissues of the seven host species, but no evidence of tissues showing different patterns of susceptibility in different host species. We conclude that, in this system, patterns of viral infectivity across host species are robust between males and females, and susceptibility in a given host is general across tissue types.

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