Herd immunity, a process in which resistant individuals limit the spread of a pathogen among susceptible hosts has been extensively studied in eukaryotes. Even though bacteria have evolved multiple immune systems against their phage pathogens, herd immunity in bacteria remains unexplored. Here we experimentally demonstrate that herd immunity arises during phage epidemics in structured and unstructured Escherichia coli populations consisting of differing frequencies of susceptible and resistant cells harboring CRISPR immunity. In addition, we develop a mathematical model that quantifies how herd immunity is affected by spatial population structure, bacterial growth rate, and phage replication rate. Using our model we infer a general epidemiological rule describing the relative speed of an epidemic in partially resistant spatially structured populations. Our experimental and theoretical findings indicate that herd immunity may be important in bacterial communities, allowing for stable coexistence of bacteria and their phages and the maintenance of polymorphism in bacterial immunity.
- Jonathan P Bollback
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Richard A Neher, University of Basel, Switzerland
© 2018, Payne et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Downloads (link to download the article as PDF)
Download citations (links to download the citations from this article in formats compatible with various reference manager tools)
Open citations (links to open the citations from this article in various online reference manager services)
Understanding the consequences of ongoing biodiversity changes for ecosystems is a pressing challenge. Controlled biodiversity-ecosystem function experiments with random biodiversity loss scenarios have demonstrated that more diverse communities usually provide higher levels of ecosystem functioning. However, it is not clear if these results predict the ecosystem consequences of environmental changes that cause non-random alterations in biodiversity and community composition. We synthesized 69 independent studies reporting 660 observations of the impacts of two pervasive drivers of global change (chemical stressors and nutrient enrichment) on animal and microbial decomposer diversity and litter decomposition. Using meta-analysis and structural equation modeling, we show that declines in decomposer diversity and abundance explain reduced litter decomposition in response to stressors but not to nutrients. While chemical stressors generally reduced biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, detrimental effects of nutrients occurred only at high levels of nutrient inputs. Thus, more intense environmental change does not always result in stronger responses, illustrating the complexity of ecosystem consequences of biodiversity change. Overall, these findings provide strong evidence that the consequences of observed biodiversity change for ecosystems depend on the kind of environmental change, and are especially significant when human activities decrease biodiversity.
Plant species diversity affects carbon and nutrient cycling during litter decomposition, yet the generality of the direction of this effect and its magnitude remains uncertain. With a meta-analysis including 65 field studies across the Earth’s major forest ecosystems, we show here that decomposition was faster when litter was composed of more than one species. These positive biodiversity effects were mostly driven by temperate forests but were more variable in other forests. Litter mixture effects emerged most strongly in early decomposition stages and were related to divergence in litter quality. Litter diversity also accelerated nitrogen, but not phosphorus release, potentially indicating a decoupling of nitrogen and phosphorus cycling and perhaps a shift in ecosystem nutrient limitation with changing biodiversity. Our findings demonstrate the importance of litter diversity effects for carbon and nutrient dynamics during decomposition, and show how these effects vary with litter traits, decomposer complexity and forest characteristics.