Immune Responses of a Native and an Invasive Bird to Buggy Creek Virus (Togaviridae: Alphavirus) and Its Arthropod Vector, the Swallow Bug (Oeciacus vicarius)

Carol A. Fassbinder-Orth, Virginia A. Barak, Charles R. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Invasive species often display different patterns of parasite burden and virulence compared to their native counterparts. These differences may be the result of variability in host-parasite co-evolutionary relationships, the occurrence of novel host-parasite encounters, or possibly innate differences in physiological responses to infection between invasive and native hosts. Here we examine the adaptive, humoral immune responses of a resistant, native bird and a susceptible, invasive bird to an arbovirus (Buggy Creek virus; Togaviridae: Alphavirus) and its ectoparasitic arthropod vector (the swallow bug; Oeciacus vicarius). Swallow bugs parasitize the native, colonially nesting cliff swallow (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) and the introduced house sparrow (Passer domesticus) that occupies nests in cliff swallow colonies. We measured levels of BCRV-specific and swallow bug-specific IgY levels before nesting (prior to swallow bug exposure) and after nesting (after swallow bug exposure) in house sparrows and cliff swallows in western Nebraska. Levels of BCRV-specific IgY increased significantly following nesting in the house sparrow but not in the cliff swallow. Additionally, house sparrows displayed consistently higher levels of swallow bug-specific antibodies both before and after nesting compared to cliff swallows. The higher levels of BCRV and swallow bug specific antibodies detected in house sparrows may be reflective of significant differences in both antiviral and anti-ectoparasite immune responses that exist between these two avian species. To our knowledge, this is the first study to compare the macro- and microparasite-specific immune responses of an invasive and a native avian host exposed to the same parasites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere58045
JournalPloS one
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 27 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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