Comparative biology of parasitic nematodes in the genus Angiostrongylus and related genera

Robert H Cowie, Richard Malik, Eric R Morgan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Citations (Scopus)


The rise to prominence of some Angiostrongylus species through associated emerging disease in humans and dogs has stimulated calls for a renewed focus on the biology of this genus and three related genera. Although significant research efforts have been made in recent years these have tended to focus on individual species and specific aspects such as diagnosis and treatment of disease or new records of occurrence and hosts. This comprehensive review takes a comparative approach, seeking commonalities and differences among species and asking such questions as: Which species belong to this and to closely related genera and how are they related? Why do only some species appear to be spreading geographically and what factors might underlie range expansion? Which animal species are involved in the life cycles as definitive, intermediate, paratenic and accidental hosts? How do parasite larvae find, infect and develop within these hosts? What are the consequences of infection for host health? How will climate change affect future spread and global health? Appreciating how species resemble and differ from each other shines a spotlight on knowledge gaps and provides provisional guidance on key species characteristics warranting detailed study. Similarities exist among species, including the basic life cycle and transmission processes, but important details such as host range, climatic requirements, migration patterns within hosts and disease mechanisms differ, with much more information available for A. cantonensis and A. vasorum than for other species. Nonetheless, comparison across Angiostrongylus reveals some common patterns. Historically narrow definitive host ranges are expanding with new knowledge, combining with very broad ranges of intermediate gastropod hosts and vertebrate and invertebrate paratenic and accidental hosts to provide the backdrop to complex interactions among climate, ecology and transmission that remain only partly understood, even for the species of dominant concern. Key outstanding questions concern larval dynamics and the potential for transmission outside trophic relations, relations between infection and disease severity in different hosts, and how global change is altering transmission beyond immediate impacts on development rate in gastropods. The concept of encounter and compatibility filters could help to explain differences in the relative importance of different gastropod species as intermediate hosts and determine the importance of host community composition and related environmental factors to transmission and range. Across the group, it remains unclear what, physiologically, immunologically or taxonomically, delimits definitive, accidental and paratenic hosts. Impacts of infection on definitive host fitness and consequences for population dynamics and transmission remain mostly unexplored across the genus. Continual updating and cross-referencing across species of Angiostrongylus and related genera is important to synthesise rapid advances in understanding of key traits and behaviours, especially in important Angiostrongylus species that are emerging causative agents of disease in humans and other animals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Parasitology
Number of pages133
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NameAdvances in parasitology


  • Distribution
  • Helminths
  • Strongylida Infections - veterinary - epidemiology
  • Zoonoses
  • Diversity
  • Angiostrongylidae
  • Lungworms
  • Animals
  • Transmission
  • Hosts
  • Dogs
  • Angiostrongylus
  • Larva
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Ecology


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