The loss of appetite that typically accompanies infection or mere exposure to parasites is traditionally considered a negative byproduct of infection, benefitting neither the host nor the parasite. Numerous medical and veterinary practices directly or indirectly subvert this ‘illness-mediated anorexia’. However, the ecological factors that influence it, its effects on disease outcomes, and why it evolved remain poorly resolved. We explore how hosts use anorexia to defend against infection and how parasites manipulate anorexia to enhance transmission. Then, we use a coevolutionary model to illustrate how shifts in the magnitude of anorexia (e.g., via drugs) affect disease dynamics and virulence evolution. Anorexia could be exploited to improve disease management; we propose an interdisciplinary approach to minimize unintended consequences.
- foraging ecology
- sickness behavior
- virulence evolution
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics