Stage-specific differences in fecundity over the life-cycle of two characterized isolates of the liver fluke, Fasciola hepatica

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The variability inherent in different isolates of Fasciola hepatica has been evident from reports in the literature but to date there has been no systematic examination of the relationship between these differences and the fecundity of the parasite. In this study we have attempted to remedy this situation by comparing the relative efficiencies with which 2 well-characterized isolates of the liver fluke (Oberon and Fairhurst) progress through both their definitive and intermediate hosts. We did not observe a reduction in fitness in the Oberon isolate which has been reported to be triclabendazole-resistant, compared to the triclabendazole-susceptible Fairhurst isolate, but considerable inter- and intra-isolate variability at different life-cycle stages was recorded. Thus the Oberon isolate gave 4-fold the number of cercariae when 100 snails were each challenged with a single miracidium and was more successful in establishing productive infections in rats. Fairhurst metacercariae excysted at a higher rate than those from the Oberon isolate and Fairhurst flukes produced 4-fold more eggs. The extent of the intra- and inter-isolate variability revealed in this work will provide a basis for the development of models of population dynamics aimed at predicting the response of the liver fluke to changing environmental conditions such as the use of anthelmintics or climatic change.

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