Parasite life cycles
Parasite life cycles
All parasites have a life cycle that involves a period of time spent in a host organism and that can be divided into phases of growth, reproduction, and transmission. Life cycles of parasites can be further divided into two categories: direct (monoxenous) and indirect (heteroxenous). Parasites with direct life cycles spend most of their adult lives in one host, known as the parasitic stage, with their progeny transmitted from one host to another, known as the free-living stage. Direct parasites often lack an intermediate stage and must leave their host. To do this, they must be able to survive in an environment outside their original host and then locate and establish in a new host. Parasites that depend on the host stage are called obligate parasites, whereas parasites that can skip the parasitic stage for several generations are called facultative parasites.
Nematodes, trypanosomatids, and Cryptosporidium are examples of parasites with direct life cycles. Parasites with indirect life cycles are characterized by two host stages, which require a definitive host and an intermediate host. The definitive host stage is required for reproduction and the adult life phase. Within the intermediate host, parasite development occurs, after which it can be transmitted to a definitive host.
Multiple developmental stages may take place in an intermediate host, which plays an important role in facilitating disease transmission in the form of vectors, such as mosquitoes, which pass immature parasites through their proboscis directly into the bloodstream of the definitive host. Some filarial nematodes, Plasmodium, and Leishmania are examples of parasites with indirect life cycles. Reservoir hosts typically tolerate parasites with no ill effects; however, the introduction of a new host into a population of reservoir hosts will often result in severe disease in the newly introduced host.
Journal of Clinical Immunology & Infectious Diseases
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