In theory, the age at which maturation occurs in parasitic nematodes is inversely related to pre-maturational mortality rate, and cross-species data on mammalian nematodes are consistent with this prediction. Immunity is a major source of parasite mortality and parasites stand to gain sizeable fitness benefits through short-term adjustments of maturation time in response to variation in immune-mediated mortality. The effects of thymus-dependent immune responses on maturation in the nematode parasites Strongyloides ratti and Nippostrongylus brasiliensis were investigated using congenitally thymus-deficient (nude) rats. As compared with worms in normal rats, reproductive maturity of parasites (presence of eggs in utero) in nude rats occurred later in 5. ratti but earlier in N. brasiliensis. Immune-mediated differences in maturation time were not associated with differences in worm length. Thymus-dependent immunity had no effect on prematurational mortality. Results are discussed in relation to theoretical expectations and possible explanations for the observed patterns in parasite maturation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Infectious Diseases