Although Syrian golden hamsters are widely used as hosts for experimental infection by Schistosoma haematobium, surprisingly little is known about the course of infection and associated intensity (as defined by measures of parasite burden). As such, we sought to define inexpensive, simple, noninvasive, and accurate methods for assessing and predicting the severity of disease in S. haematobium–infected hamsters in order to prevent premature hamster sacrifice and unexpected morbidity and mortality. Through monitoring the weight and behavior of infected hamsters, we determined that the weight-loss patterns of infected hamsters are highly correlated with commonly used measures of the severity of infection (i.e., numbers of eggs passed in the stool, worm burdens, and total egg yields). In contrast, we found no significant correlation between hamster weight-loss patterns and egg yields from liver and intestinal tissues. Our findings suggest that a more complex relationship exists among worm burden, fecundity, and egg passage in the feces than previously appreciated. Regardless, our data may be useful for workers seeking to optimize harvests of S. haematobium eggs and worms from infected hamsters for downstream applications.
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Vol. 101 • No. 5