Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 August 1999
The distribution of helminth parasites within their host population is usually overdispersed and can be described by the negative binomial distribution. The causes of this overdispersion are poorly understood, but heterogeneity in the distribution of infective stages within the environment has been implicated as a possible factor. Here we describe the distribution of infective stages of the rat intestinal nematode parasite Strongyloides ratti among the faecal pellets of its host. The distribution of infective stages between faecal pellets is overdispersed and well described by the negative binomial distribution. This overdispersion increases during the course of infection and occurs over a range of infection intensities. Overdispersion of nematode infective stages among faecal pellets may result in increased spatial heterogeneity of the infective stages in the environment and thus may contribute to the generation of overdispersion of adult parasitic stages. In addition, these findings raise important issues regarding the accurate quantification of helminth egg counts from faecal samples.