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No evidence for immune priming in ants exposed to a fungal pathogen.
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There is accumulating evidence that invertebrates can acquire long-term protection against pathogens through immune priming. However, the range of pathogens eliciting immune priming and the specificity of the response remain unclear. Here, we tested if the exposure to a natural fungal pathogen elicited immune priming in ants. We found no evidence for immune priming in Formica selysi workers exposed to Beauveria bassiana. The initial exposure of ants to the fungus did not alter their resistance in a subsequent challenge with the same fungus. There was no sign of priming when using homologous and heterologous combinations of fungal strains for exposure and subsequent challenges at two time intervals. Hence, within the range of conditions tested, the immune response of this social insect to the fungal pathogen appears to lack memory and strain-specificity. These results show that immune priming is not ubiquitous across pathogens, hosts and conditions, possibly because of immune evasion by the pathogen or efficient social defences by the host.
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