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Chronic infection. Hidden costs of infection: chronic malaria accelerates telomere degradation and senescence in wild birds.

  • Asghar Muhammad
  • Dennis Hasselquist
  • Bengt Hansson
  • P Zehtindjiev
  • Helena Westerdahl
  • Staffan Bensch
Publishing year: 2015
Language: English
Pages: 436-438
Publication/Series: Science
Volume: 347
Issue: 6220
Document type: Journal article
Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science

Abstract english

Recovery from infection is not always complete, and mild chronic infection may persist. Although the direct costs of such infections are apparently small, the potential for any long-term effects on Darwinian fitness is poorly understood. In a wild population of great reed warblers, we found that low-level chronic malaria infection reduced life span as well as the lifetime number and quality of offspring. These delayed fitness effects of malaria appear to be mediated by telomere degradation, a result supported by controlled infection experiments on birds in captivity. The results of this study imply that chronic infection may be causing a series of small adverse effects that accumulate and eventually impair phenotypic quality and Darwinian fitness.


  • Biological Sciences


  • Malaria in birds
  • Long-term study of great reed warblers
  • Centre for Animal Movement Research
  • Molecular Ecology and Evolution Lab
  • ISSN: 1095-9203
Dennis Hasselquist
E-mail: dennis [dot] hasselquist [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se



+46 46 222 37 08



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Doctoral students and postdocs

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PhD Students, assistant supervisor


Interview about my research in the Swedish podcast "Forskarn & jag"