A secondary host or intermediate host is a host that harbors the parasite only for a short transition period, during which (usually) some developmental stage is completed. For trypanosomes, the cause of sleeping sickness, humans are the intermediate host, while the tsetse fly is the definitive host, given that it has been shown that reproduction occurs in the insect. Cestodes (tapeworms) and other parasitic flatworms have complex life-cycles, in which specific developmental stages are completed in a sequence of several different hosts.
As the life cycles of many parasites are not well understood, sometimes the "more important" organism is arbitrarily defined as definitive, and this designation may continue even after it is determined to be incorrect. For example, sludge worms are sometimes considered "intermediate hosts" for whirling disease, even though it is known that the parasite causing the disease reproduces sexually inside them .
In Trichinella spiralis, the roundworm that causes trichinosis, a host has both reproductive adults in its digestive tract and immature juveniles in its muscles, and is therefore considered both an intermediate host and a definitive host.