Chemosensory behaviors of parasites

Trends Parasitol. 2012 Oct;28(10):427-36. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Aug 24.


Many multicellular parasites seek out hosts by following trails of host-emitted chemicals. Host seeking is a characteristic of endoparasites such as parasitic worms as well as of ectoparasites such as mosquitoes and ticks. For host location, many of these parasites use CO(2), a respiration byproduct, in combination with host-specific chemicals. Recent work has begun to elucidate the behavioral responses of parasites to CO(2) and other host chemicals, and to unravel the mechanisms of these responses. Here we discuss recent findings that have greatly advanced our understanding of the chemosensory behaviors of host-seeking parasites. We focus primarily on well-studied parasites such as nematodes and insects, but also note broadly relevant findings in a few less well studied parasites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Chemotaxis / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Helminths / physiology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Insecta / physiology
  • Parasites / physiology*