Macroparasites are parasites that are large enough to be seen with the naked eye, in contrast to microparasites. They grow in one host but reproduce by infective stages outside of this host. These generally include ticks, mites, nematodes, flatworms, etc., and can be either external parasites (ectoparasitic) or internal parasites (endoparasitic). The most abundant macroparasite in humans is the nematode Ascaris lumbricoides. Up to 2000 of these nematodes can be found in a single human. Macroparasitic infection results in around 100,000 deaths a year, mostly in South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Macroparasites are also parasitic of many plant species and can be a significant agricultural pest.
A different distinction between micro- and macroparasites was made by historian William Hardy McNeill in his 1976 book Plagues and Peoples. Macroparasites are defined by McNeill to be infections used to attack and exploit susceptible neighbouring peoples in a form of epidemiological warfare. The parasitological definition of macroparasite is based on parasite life cycles rather than the human politics of biological warfare.
- McNeill, W.H. (1976). Plagues and Peoples. Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday. ISBN 0-385-12122-9.
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