Microbes in animals and plants shape infection outcomes

September 30, 2021

Dr. Kayla King is a PWIAS International Visiting Research Scholar and Professor of Evolutionary Ecology at Oxford University. She explores the evolutionary ecology of host-parasite interactions across the tree of life.

Many animal and plant species harbour microbes in their microbiota that suppress pathogen infection. These ‘protective microbes’ can be a significant component of host defence. By experimentally evolving multiple microbial systems (e.g., worms, bacteria, viruses), Dr. King and her team have demonstrated that host-associated microbes can rapidly evolve to defend their animal hosts against infection. In this presentation, Dr. King shows how these protective microbes can drive major changes in pathogen virulence and host genetic-based resistance, as well as alter co-evolutionary dynamics and evolutionary rates. Their results indicate that microbes in hosts are important in shaping infection outcomes, now and over evolutionary time.

Global climate change is projected to alter the distribution, prevalence, and harm caused by infectious diseases. This alarming prediction suggests a pending crisis for nature as well as society. During her sabbatical at UBC, Dr. King will be studying the impact of environmental change on the evolution of infectious diseases globally, including the effects on transmissibility of pathogens to new hosts and geographic areas. Dr.King’s visit is hosted by PWIAS faculty associates, Drs. Michelle Tseng, Zoology, and Richard Hamelin, Forest and Conservation Sciences.

Dr. King’s presentation (Sept. 22, 2021)

Photo credit: Михаил Павленко/Unsplash