Using experimental de-worming to measure the immunological and pathological impacts of lungworm infection in cane toads

Patrick B. Finnerty*, Catherine M. Shilton, Richard Shine, Gregory P. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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The immunological and pathological consequences of parasite infection can be more rigorously assessed from experimental manipulation than from correlational studies of natural infections. We used anthelmintic treatment to experimentally decrease intensities of lungworm infection in captive and free-ranging wild cane toads to assess parasite impacts on host immune responses. First, we administered the anthelmintic drug Ivermectin to both infected and uninfected toads, to distinguish drug effects per se from the impacts of killing lungworms. Worms began dying and decomposing <48 h after injection. The only immunological variables that were affected by anthelmintic treatment were bactericidal capacity of the blood which increased in parasitized toads (presumably triggered by decomposing worms in the lungs), and the phagocytic capacity of blood (which increased in both infected and uninfected toads); the latter effect presumably was caused by the injection of Ivermectin per se rather than removal of parasites. Second, we looked at correlates of variation in the infection intensity induced by de-worming (in both captive and free-ranging toads) over an eight-week period. Heavier lungworm infection was associated with increased phagocytic ability of the host's blood, and a reduction in the host's liver mass (and hence, energy stores). Experimental de-worming thus revealed pathological and immunological costs of the presence of lungworms, and of their removal by anthelmintic injection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)310-319
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Rhinella marina
  • Bufo marinus
  • host
  • parasite
  • nematode


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