Microparasite virulence (the potential to cause harm in the host) is thought to be regulated by a direct trade-off with pathogen transmission potential, but it is unclear whether similar trade-offs occur in macroparasites (helminths). In this analysis, the transmission potentials of 5 nematode species (order Strongylida), known to differ in their virulence, were estimated using an index based on egg production and larval survivability. Virulence estimates were based on the minimum number of worms that cause host death. In nematode species where mature adults cause pathology (trichonematidic development), there is a direct relationship between virulence and transmission, suggesting that high virulence is related to parasite fitness in these worms. However, in nematodes where the juvenile stages produce pathology during migration and development (strongylidic development), virulence is not correlated with transmission. These data suggest that trade-offs between transmission and virulence in nematode parasites are not analogous for all species and may depend on the developmental strategy and mechanism of pathogenicity of the parasites.

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