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Parasitology. 2002 Apr;124(Pt 4):465-74.

To avoid or eliminate: cestode infections in copepods.

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Department of Evolutionary Ecology, Max-Planck-Institute for Limnology, Plön, Germany.


The outcome of a parasite infection is the result of the interaction between the host and the parasite. In the system we studied, there are 3 critical stages for the outcome of infection of the (intermediate) host, the copepod Macrocyclops albidus, with the cestode Schistocephalus solidus. During the establishment phase of the parasite, the host may firstly avoid ingesting the parasite and, secondly, may prevent the parasite from entering the body cavity and, thirdly, during the growth phase of the parasite, the host's immune system may eliminate the parasite from the body cavity. We were able to study the growth phase separately from the establishment phase. The establishment phase was influenced by characteristics of the host as well as characteristics of the parasites. Small copepods and males performed poorly; they were more often infected and had a lower survival. Parasites from different sib-groups differed in infectivity. During the growth phase some disappearance of parasites was observed. However, this could not be related to any of the studied characteristics of the host, and the sib-groups of parasites did not seem to differ in their likelihood to disappear. Instead, we suggest that disappearance of parasites, once they have entered the body cavity, may be due to intrinsic mortality of the parasites, independent of the host or the sib-group that the parasites belong to. This indicates that the crucial interactions between host and parasite determining the outcome of infection takes place in the short time-period between ingestion and penetration of the gut-wall.

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