Food for Contagion: Synthesis and Future Directions for Studying Host–Parasite Responses to Resource Shifts in Anthropogenic Environments

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Human-provided resource subsidies for wildlife are diverse, common and have profound consequences for wildlife–pathogen interactions, as demonstrated by papers in this themed issue spanning empirical, theoretical and management perspectives from a range of study systems. Contributions cut across scales of organization, from the within-host dynamics of immune function, to population-level impacts on parasite transmission, to landscape- and regional-scale patterns of infection. In this concluding paper, we identify common threads and key findings from author contributions, including the consequences of resource subsidies for (i) host immunity; (ii) animal aggregation and contact rates; (iii) host movement and landscape-level infection patterns; and (iv) interspecific contacts and cross-species transmission. Exciting avenues for future work include studies that integrate mechanistic modelling and empirical approaches to better explore cross-scale processes, and experimental manipulations of food resources to quantify host and pathogen responses. Work is also needed to examine evolutionary responses to provisioning, and ask how diet-altered changes to the host microbiome influence infection processes. Given the massive public health and conservation implications of anthropogenic resource shifts, we end by underscoring the need for practical recommendations to manage supplemental feeding practices, limit human–wildlife conflicts over shared food resources and reduce cross-species transmission risks, including to humans.

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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, v. 373, art. 20170102