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Co-infection does not predict disease signs in Gopherus tortoises
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In disease ecology, the host immune system interacts with environmental conditions and pathogen properties to affect the impact of disease on the host. Within the host, pathogens may interact to facilitate or inhibit each other's growth, and pathogens interact with different hosts differently. We investigated co-infection of two Mycoplasma and the association of infection with clinical signs of upper respiratory tract disease in four congeneric tortoise host species (Gopherus) in the United States to detect differences in infection risk and disease dynamics in these hosts. Mojave Desert tortoises had greater prevalence of Mycoplasma agassizii than Texas tortoises and gopher tortoises, while there were no differences in Mycoplasma testudineum prevalence among host species. In some host species, the presence of each pathogen influenced the infection intensity of the otherhence, these two mycoplasmas interact differently within different hosts, and our results may indicate facilitation of these bacteria. Neither infection nor co-infection was associated with clinical signs of disease, which tend to fluctuate across time. From M. agassizii DNA sequences, we detected no meaningful differentiation of haplotypes among hosts. Experimental inoculation studies and recurrent resampling of wild individuals could help to decipher the underlying mechanisms of disease dynamics in this system.