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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


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


Marine parasites such as trematodes often compromise the fitness of their hosts. Such effects are generally considered to be density-dependent, i.e. the greater the infection intensity in the host, the greater the detrimental impact on host fitness. However, the mechanisms determining infection in marine hosts are still poorly understood. Here, we investigated the effect of cercarial dose and exposure frequency (single vs. trickle infections) of a marine trematode parasite, Himasthla elongata (Trematoda: Echinostomatidae), on infection intensity and success in its second intermediate host, the blue mussel Mytilus edulis, an abundant and widely distributed bivalve in European coastal waters. In our laboratory experiment, we tested 4 levels of parasite doses and showed that mussels faced higher parasite infection intensity at higher doses of cercarial exposure and that they acquired more infections when repeatedly exposed to smaller doses compared to a single high dose. However, the infection success of cercariae did not differ among 4 dose levels but was only significantly different between trickle and single exposures. This indicates that cercariae were not subjected to a dose-dependent regulation of their infectivity, suggesting that infection intensity in mussels is largely driven by factors mediating the abundance of infective stages. With the combined investigation of the effect of cercarial dose and exposure frequency at realistic dose levels, our study contributes to our currently very limited understanding of the determinants of infection intensity in marine hosts and highlights the usefulness of experimental studies in advancing our knowledge in this field.

Concepts: Transmission and infection of H5N1, Schistosomatidae, Infection, Miracidium, Digenea, Mytilidae, Trematoda, Blue mussel


The diversity and taxonomy of diplostomids infecting freshwater fishes of the Indian region are predominantly poorly known. Yet compared to other trematodes, identification and discrimination of diplostomid metacercaria are difficult using morphology and site of infection. The present study provides the first molecular study of Tylodelphys sp. from India. Specimens of Tylodelphys were collected from the vitreous humor of the eyes and from the brains of siluriform fish, Mystus tengara (Siluriformes: Bagridae) from Hastinapur, Meerut (U.P.), India. Taxonomic studies were performed on the basis of morphological, morphometrical, and molecular analysis. The dissimilarities in morphological and sites of infection between 2 forms of Tylodelphys, designated as Tylodelphys sp. 1 and Tylodelphys sp. 2 suggested that the forms were different species but after performing molecular analysis, we conclude that despite morphological differences, both morphotypes are conspecific.

Concepts: Miracidium, Taxonomy, Eye, Trematoda, Digenea, Freshwater fish, Species, Catfish


Most species aggregate in local patches. High host density in patches increases contact rate between hosts and parasites, increasing parasite transmission success. At the same time, for environmentally-transmitted parasites, high host density can decrease infection risk to individual hosts, because infective stages are divided among all hosts in a patch, leading to safety in numbers. We tested these predictions using the California horn snail, Cerithideopsis californica (=Cerithidea californica), which is the first intermediate host for at least 19 digenean trematode species in California estuaries. Snails become infected by ingesting trematode eggs or through penetration by free-swimming miracidia that hatch from trematode eggs deposited with final-host (bird or mammal) feces. This complex life cycle decouples infective-stage production from transmission, raising the possibility of an inverse relationship between host density and infection risk. In a field survey, higher snail density was associated with increased trematode (infected snail) density, but decreased trematode prevalence, consistent with either safety in numbers, parasitic castration, or both. To determine the extent to which safety in numbers drove the negative snail density-trematode prevalence association, we manipulated uninfected snail density in 83 cages at eight sites within Carpinteria Salt Marsh (CA, USA). At each site, we quantified snail density and used data on final-host (bird and raccoon) distributions to control for between-site variation in infective-stage supply. After three months, overall trematode infections per cage increased with snail-biomass density. For egg-transmitted trematodes, per-snail infection risk decreased with snail-biomass density in the cage and surrounding area, whereas per-snail infection risk did not decrease for miracidium-transmitted trematodes. Furthermore, both trematode recruitment and infection risk increased with infective-stage input, but this was significant only for miracidium-transmitted species. A model parameterized with our experimental results and snail densities from 524 field transects estimated that safety in numbers, when combined with host aggregation, halved per-capita infection risk in this snail population. We conclude that, depending on transmission mode, host density can enhance parasite recruitment and reduce per-capita infection risk. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Schistosoma, Miracidium, Digenea, Trematoda


The functional ultrastructure and embryonic development of miracidia in naturally released eggs of the trematode Cardiocephaloides longicollis were studied using light and transmission electron microscopy. This species has operculated eggs and embryogenesis occurs in the marine environment before an actively infecting ciliated miracidium hatches. Six different developmental stages were identified. The lack of pores in the eggshell indicates its impermeability and the miracidium’s dependency on glycogen nutritive reserves, contained in numerous vitellocytes in early embryos. As the development advances, these merge into larger vitelline vacuoles that encircle the miracidium and may aid its hatching. Tissue and primary organ differentiation were observed in advanced stages, i.e., terebratorium, glands, cerebral ganglion, peripheral sensory endings, and eyespots. The anterior part of the body contains a single apical and paired lateral glands, as well as two types of sensory endings, which permit location, adhesion, and penetration of the host. No previous studies describe the embryonic development and ultrastructure of miracidia in strigeids, however, some of the structural features shared with other, well described species with unknown life cycles are emphasised. This study highlights that ultrastructural data have to be interpreted in relation to parasite biology to understand the structural requirements of specific parasite strategies.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Cell, Electron, Embryo, Embryology, Miracidium, Trematoda, Digenea