Most attempts to culture adult digeneans in vitro are unsuccessful. Even progenetic digeneans typically fail to produce infective eggs in axenic culture. However, metacercariae of Microphallus turgidus grown in vitro mature into adults and release eggs infective to the hydrobiid snail Spurwinkia salsa. The objectives of the present study were to verify the reproducibility of the M. turgidus culture protocol, to define optimal culture conditions for M. turgidus further, and to investigate why the parasite can be grown successfully in the absence of the definitive host. In the original cultivation protocol, excysted M. turgidus metacercariae from grass shrimp (Palaemonetes pugio) were incubated overnight in a conical-bottom centrifuge tube containing Hank's balanced salt solution and then cultivated in flat-bottom culture plate wells containing RPMI-1640 plus 20% horse serum. The gas phase was air. Worms cultured under this protocol consistently deposited eggs infective to snails. Worms grown in anaerobic conditions deposited few eggs, and those cultured in a gas phase of 5% CO2 survived longer and produced more eggs than those cultured in air. However, snails were less likely to become infected when fed eggs deposited by worms cultured in 5% CO2. Additionally, worms incubated with conspecifics in conical-bottom tubes prior to cultivation were more likely to be inseminated than worms incubated in flat-bottom culture wells; the highest percentages of inseminated worms occurred when metacercariae were incubated 24 hr in conical-bottom tubes at a density of 50 worms/tube and at a temperature of 37 C. Worms incubated in the absence of conspecifics were not fertilized and failed to produce infective eggs.
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