Field studies have identified that male-biased infection can lead to increased rates of transmission, so we examined the relative importance of host sex on the transmission of a trophically transmitted parasite (Pterygodermatites peromysci) where there is no sex-biased infection. We experimentally reduced infection levels in either male or female white-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) on independent trapping grids with an anthelmintic and recorded subsequent infection levels in the intermediate host, the camel cricket (Ceuthophilus pallidipes). We found that anthelmintic treatment significantly reduced the prevalence of infection among crickets in both treatment groups compared with the control, and at a rate proportional to the number of mice de-wormed, indicating prevalence was not affected by the sex of the shedding definitive host. In contrast, parasite abundance in crickets was higher on the grids where females were treated compared with the grids where males were treated. These findings indicate that male hosts contribute disproportionately more infective stages to the environment and may therefore be responsible for the majority of parasite transmission even when there is no discernable sex-biased infection. We also investigated whether variation in nematode length between male and female hosts could account for this male-biased infectivity, but found no evidence to support that hypothesis.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases