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We studied infection dynamics of Plasmodium chabaudi in mice infected with 3 genetically distinct clones – 1 less virulent than the other 2 – either on their own or in mixtures. During the acute phase of infection, total numbers of asexual parasites in mixed-clone infections were equal to those produced by the 3 clones alone, suggesting strong in-host competition among clones. During the chronic phase of the infection, mixed-clone infections produced more asexual parasites than single-clone infections, suggesting lower levels of competition than during the acute phase, and indicating that a genetically diverse infection is harder to control by the host immune system. Transmission potential over the whole course of infection was lower from mixed-clone infections than from the average of the 3 single-clone infections. These results suggest that in-host competition reduces both growth rate and probability of transmission for individual parasite clones.
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