J Anim Ecol. 2021 Dec;90(12):2744-2754. doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.13595. Epub 2021 Oct 10.


Ecologists increasingly recognise coinfection as an important component of emergent epidemiological patterns, connecting aspects of ecoimmunology, behaviour, ecosystem function and even extinction risk. Building on syndemic theory in medical anthropology, we propose the term 'synzootics' to describe co-occurring enzootic or epizootic processes that produce worse health outcomes in wild animals. Using framing from syndemic theory, we describe how the synzootic concept offers new insights into the ecology and evolution of infectious diseases. We then recommend a set of empirical criteria and lines of evidence that can be used to identify synzootics in nature. We conclude by exploring how synzootics could indirectly drive the emergence of novel pathogens in human populations.

Keywords: One Health; coinfection; conservation medicine; ecoimmunology; host-parasite interactions; syndemics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coinfection*
  • Communicable Diseases*
  • Ecology
  • Ecosystem