Environmental stressors have the potential to greatly impact the transmission of parasites with complex, multi-host life cycles such as those of trematodes. The commonly used herbicide atrazine has been shown to affect the susceptibility of second intermediate hosts (such as larval amphibians) to trematode infection, as well as the longevity and infectivity of the free-swimming cercariae, but not eggs or the free-swimming miracidia that infect the gastropod first intermediate hosts. However, we do not know if this pesticide influences the survival of infected snails or whether it affects cercariae production within, or emergence from, these hosts. In addition, previous studies of host–parasite dynamics have only examined the parent atrazine compound, not any of the long-lasting metabolites commonly present in water bodies. Here, we report that a concentration of 0.33 µg/L of an atrazine metabolite, desethyl atrazine, increased the mortality of freshwater gastropods (Stagnicola elodes) infected with a gymnocephalus type of cercaria but not that of uninfected snails or those harboring a mature or dormant infection of Echinoparyphium sp. In contrast, 2 wk of exposure to desethyl atrazine did not affect the emergence of gymnocephalus cercariae from snails, although a trend for a decrease in the emergence of Echinoparyphium sp. cercariae was observed. We suggest that simultaneous trematode infection and exposure to contaminants may represent a significant combined stress to gastropods, but this is likely parasite species-specific as well as dependent on whether cercariae are being actively produced.
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Vol. 97 • No. 5