Susceptibility of free-living infective stages of parasites to contaminants is relatively understudied compared with independent effects on measures of host health or immunity, but may be important in affecting prevalence and intensity of parasite infections. We investigated whether atrazine, an herbicide commonly used in North America, affected the cercariae of 4 different species of digenetic trematodes, and found that effects of atrazine concentration on mortality and activity of cercariae varied among species. Mortality of Echinostoma trivolvis increased in a 200 μg/L atrazine solution, and a species of Alaria showed both decreased activity and increased mortality. We also examined whether the ability of E. trivolvis to infect the second intermediate host, larval amphibians, was compromised by atrazine exposure. Longevity and prevalence of E. trivolvis cercariae was affected at 200 μg/L atrazine, whereas intensity of infection in Rana clamitans tadpoles was reduced at both 20 μg/L and 200 μg/L atrazine. Our results indicate that the viability of cercariae of some species is compromised by exposure to atrazine, emphasizing the importance of considering the influence of contaminants on free-living stages of parasites in addressing how environmental degradation may relate to host parasitism.
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