We investigated possible mechanisms that could cause sex-biased parasite transmission of the helminth Heligmosomoides polygyrus in its rodent host, Apodemus flavicollis, using a modelling approach. Two, not mutually exclusive, hypotheses were examined: that sex-biased parasite transmission is caused by differences in immunity that influence the success of free-living stages and/or is caused by sex differences in host behaviour and the dissemination of infective stages. Model simulations were compared with results from a field manipulation experiment of H. polygyrus in replicated populations of A. flavicollis. Simulations predicted the experimental field results, and both hypotheses explained the pattern observed. Transmission is male-biased if a male immune response increases fertility, hatching or survival of free-living stages. Alternatively, transmission is male-biased if their behavioural characteristics allow them to spread infective larvae in areas more frequently used by females. These results highlight that host sex is not only responsible for differences in parasite susceptibility, but may profoundly influence host-parasite interactions, resulting in a sex bias in parasite transmission.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases