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Concept: Miracidium


SUMMARY Miracidia are short-lived, non-feeding (lecithotrophic) free-living stages of trematodes, whose survival is potentially influenced by temperature. Climate change may result in elevated temperatures affecting trematode transmission. Therefore understanding their thermobiology forms an important step in determining the future dynamics of parasite populations. An empirical relationship exists between the mean expected life span of lecithotrophic larvae and the half life of their population (t 0·5 ) and therefore t 0·5 is a good indicator of glycogen utilization. In this study experimental data on the effects of temperature on miracidial survival were compiled from the scientific literature and evaluated in terms of metabolism using Q 10 and Arrhenius activation energy (E* or μ). Temperature poorly influenced survival/metabolism with all miracidia having distinct zone(s) of thermostability. Overall there were few differences in Q 10 and E* values between most species temperature ranges whilst there were only limited strain-specific variations in thermal responses of laboratory-maintained Schistosoma mansoni. Miracidia demonstrated a trend of greater thermal resistance than cercariae. In particular, comparative studies on 4 strains of the same species of miracidia and cercariae showed little correlation in thermal biology between the 2 life-history stages. The importance of these results for trematode transmission under global climate change is discussed.

Concepts: Schistosoma, Miracidium, Climate, Temperature, Heat, Weather, Trematoda, Digenea


Viability of eggs is important for the successful completion of trematode life cycle, both in natural and laboratory conditions. The present study was designed to check the viability of eggs released by the digenetic trematode parasite Clinostomum complanatum transformed in experimentally infected chicken and rabbit eye. The incubation of the released eggs in distilled water at 28 ± 1 °C led to the embryonation followed by hatching on tenth day to release miracidia. These can be used to infect the snails. We propose that these two in vivo model systems can be used as a source of viable eggs for further studies on developmental biology and life cycle where in law-protected animals are not to be used. To the best of our knowledge, in contrast to the previous attempts, this is the first successful study to report any experimental model to produce ovigerous adult worms capable of releasing viable eggs.

Concepts: Schistosoma, Miracidium, Digenea, Trematoda, Model organism


Cercariae of digenean family Notocotylidae are characterized by a set of morphological traits which make them easily distinguishable from any other. One of the key features is absence of ventral sucker. This affects basic ways of locomotion and attachment. To understand how these functions are fulfilled we studied musculature arrangement in cercariae of two species by means of fluorescent-phalloidin staining and confocal microscopy. We used Cercaria Notocotylidae sp. No. 11 and 12 Deblock, 1980 from mud snails Ecrobia (=Hydrobia) ventrosa. Information on gross morphology (especially body-tail junction) and basic behavioural patterns of these cercariae is also updated. Major special features of musculature are associated with the ventral concavity: extreme development of dorsoventral muscle fibres and formation of annular arrangement of longitudinal muscle fibres on the ventral side. Additional body-wall and internal muscle bundles in the anterior region are also specific for notocotylid cercariae and seem to play important role in twisting movements during substratum testing. Musculature of dorsal adhesive pockets, oral sucker and tail is also described. These results are discussed in relation to observed locomotory patterns.

Concepts: Muscular system, Glycogen, Cardiac muscle, Place of articulation, Muscle, Trematoda, Miracidium, Digenea


Digenean trematodes are common and abundant in aquatic habitats and their free-living larvae, the cercariae, have recently been recognized as important components of ecosystems in terms of comprising a significant proportion of biomass and in having a potentially strong influence on food web dynamics. One strategy to enhance their transmission success is to produce high numbers of cercariae which are available during the activity peak of the next host. In laboratory experiments with 13 Lymnaea stagnalis snails infected with Trichobilharzia szidati the average daily emergence rate per snail was determined as 2,621 cercariae, with a maximum of 29,560. During a snail’s lifetime this summed up to a mass equivalent of or even exceeding the snail’s own body mass. Extrapolated for the eutrophic pond where the snails were collected, annual T. szidati biomass may reach 4.65 tons, a value equivalent to a large Asian elephant. Emission peaks were observed after the onset of illumination, indicating emission synchronizing with the high morning activities of the definitive hosts, ducks. However, high cercarial emission is possible throughout the day under favorable lightning conditions. Therefore, although bird schistosomes, such as T. szidati constitute only a fraction of the diverse trematode communities in the studied aquatic ecosystem, their cercariae can still pose a considerable risk for humans of getting cercarial dermatitis (swimmer’s itch) due to the high number of cercariae emitted from infected snails.

Concepts: Swimmer's itch, Miracidium, Flatworm, Schistosoma, Ecosystem, Trematoda, Schistosomatidae, Digenea


Susceptibility and tolerance to parasite infection vary greatly between host species. The congeneric isopod species Austridotea annectens and Austridotea lacustris often occur in sympatry and can both serve as intermediate hosts for the trematode Maritrema poulini. However, the intensity and prevalence of infections vary greatly in natural populations, with A. annectens often being heavily infected and A. lacustris rarely being infected. To shed light on the factors that may be involved in infection avoidance in A. lacustris, 100 isopods were collected and experimentally exposed to M. poulini cercariae. To examine for potential behavioural mechanisms, we used carbonated water as a paralysing agent to temporarily stop any movement by the isopods, and exposed paralysed isopods to cercariae. In the experiments, none of the individuals that were exposed to the parasite were found to be infected, although some cercariae seemed to have penetrated isopod hosts. Behavioural defence mechanisms do not seem to explain the different infection levels between A. lacustris and A. annectens, suggesting a physiological, possibly immunological, factor may be present. At the ecosystem level, this suggests a potential dilution effect caused by this low-competency host, and its effects on parasite transmission dynamics should be investigated.

Concepts: Crustacean, Disease, Digenea, Miracidium, Transmission and infection of H5N1, Trematoda, Infection, Immune system


Centrocestus formosanus is a foodborne intestinal trematode that is native to Asia and has been introduced into the Americas and Europe. Although there are several studies of C. formosanus in definitive vertebrate hosts (birds and mammals, including humans), and in intermediate vertebrate hosts (fish and amphibians), there is little published information regarding interaction with its transmitting mollusc. In this study we studied the miracidial development of C. formosanus using a mouse as a source of eggs. Adult parasites were maintained in water in order to develop miracidia in intrauterine eggs. Miracidia appeared at 12 days of incubation, with no hatching observed for up to 40 days. Subsequently, we placed dead C. formosanus containing eggs with miracidia individually in contact with 48 specimens of Melanoides tuberculata, and observed the absence of the parasites after 1h of exposure, suggesting that they were ingested by the snails. Of the 33 experimentally-infected snails that were alive after 84-89 days post-infection (DPI), seven (21%) shed cercariae. We detected young C. formosanus rediae in 21/33 (64%) M. tuberculata at 90 DPI. To our knowledge, this report is the first to show that, in the life cycle of C. formosanus, infection of molluscs occurs passively by ingestion of eggs, followed by a long intramolluscan phase. We compare these data with those described for other Heterophyidae, and discuss on the phylogenetic background of the pattern of miracidial development verified in these parasites.

Concepts: Cephalopod, Thiaridae, Animal, Intestinal parasite, Miracidium, Digenea, Trematoda, Mollusca


The rapid pace of environmental change is driving multi-faceted shifts in abiotic factors that influence parasite transmission. However, cumulative effects of these factors on wildlife diseases remain poorly understood. Here we used an information-theoretic approach to compare the relative influence of abiotic factors (temperature, diurnal temperature range, nutrients and pond-drying), on infection of snail and amphibian hosts by two trematode parasites (Ribeiroia ondatrae and Echinostoma spp.). A temperature shift from 20 to 25 °C was associated with an increase in infected snail prevalence of 10-20%, while overall snail densities declined by a factor of 6. Trematode infection abundance in frogs was best predicted by infected snail density, while Ribeiroia infection specifically also declined by half for each 10% reduction in pond perimeter, despite no effect of perimeter on the per snail release rate of cercariae. Both nutrient concentrations and Ribeiroia infection positively predicted amphibian deformities, potentially owing to reduced host tolerance or increased parasite virulence in more productive environments. For both parasites, temperature, pond-drying, and nutrients were influential at different points in the transmission cycle, highlighting the importance of detailed seasonal field studies that capture the importance of multiple drivers of infection dynamics and the mechanisms through which they operate.

Concepts: Relative density, Ribeiroia, Digenea, Miracidium, Temperature, Diurnal temperature variation, Disease, Density


The transmission from one host to another constitutes a challenging obstacle for parasites and is a key determinant of their fitness. Due to their complex life histories involving several different hosts, the free-living dispersal stages (cercariae) of digenean trematodes show a huge diversity in morphology and behaviour. On a finer scale, we still have an extremely limited understanding of the inter- and intraspecific variation in transmission strategies of many trematode species. Here, we present a novel method to study the movement patterns of cercariae of four New Zealand trematode species (Coitocaecum parvum, Maritrema poulini, Apatemon sp. and Aporocotylid sp. I.) via automated video tracking. This approach allows to quantify parameters otherwise not measurable and clearly illustrates the individual strategies of parasites to search for their respective target hosts. Cercariae that seek out an evasive fish target hosts showed higher swimming speeds (acceleration and velocity) and travelled further distances, compared with species searching for high-density crustacean hosts. Automated video tracking provides a powerful tool for such detailed analyses of parasites' host-searching strategies and can enhance our understanding of complex host-parasite interactions, ranging from parasite community structure to the transmission of potential disease agents.

Concepts: Schistosoma, Species, Miracidium, Digenea, Trematoda


The lymnaeids are important in the epidemiology of Fasciola hepatica, a neglected and endemic zoonosis. The interaction between the internal defense system of Pseudosuccinea columella and F. hepatica has been little studied. In the present study the effect of infection by F. hepatica on P. columella circulating haemocytes was investigated. Changes in the average number of total circulating haemocytes have been observed at 30 minutes post-infection and 1, 7, 10, 14, 21, 28 and 50 days post-infection (dpi). Miracidia were observed head-foot and mantle at 30 minutes post-infection. Miracidia/Sporocysts in the mantle skirt 1 dpi, and fully formed sporocysts were observed in the head-foot at 7 dpi. Rediae became evident at 10 dpi and were located between the haemocoel and the muscles from 14 dpi; 50 dpi, the rediae in the digestive gland contained cercariae. The statistical analysis of the total haemocytes of P. columella infected by F. hepatica showed significant differences on the 30 minutes post-infection and 1, 14, 21, and 28 dpi in comparison to uninfected molluscs (0 dpi). Therefore, the interference observed on the internal defence system of P. columella may have direct association with the development of F. hepatica.

Concepts: Miracidium, The Mantle, Trematoda, Statistics, Harshad number, Epidemiology, Fasciola hepatica, Digenea


Lecithodendrium linstowi is one of the most prevalent and abundant trematodes of bats, but the larval stages and intermediate hosts have not been identified. We present the first molecular and morphological characterization of the cercariae of L. linstowi based on a phylogenetic analysis of partial fragments of LSU and ITS2 rDNA. The first intermediate host was incriminated as Radix balthica by DNA barcoding using cox1 and ITS2 sequences, although the snail morphologically resembled Radix peregra, emphasizing the requirement for molecular identification of lymnaeids as important intermediate hosts of medical and veterinary impact. The application of molecular data in this study has enabled linkage of life cycle stages and accurate incrimination of the first intermediate host.

Concepts: Identification, Molecule, DNA barcoding, Natural reservoir, Lymnaeidae, Digenea, Miracidium, Trematoda