Variation in the strength of selection pressures acting upon different subpopulations may cause density-dependent regulatory processes to act differentially on particular genotypes and may influence the rate of selection of adaptive traits. Using host-helminth parasite systems as examples, we investigate the impact of different positive and negative density dependence on the potential spread of anthelmintic resistance. Following chemotherapy, the negative density-dependent processes restricting parasite population growth will be relaxed, increasing the genetic contribution of resistant parasites to the next generation. Simple deterministic models of directly transmitted nematodes that merge population dynamics and genetics show that the frequency of drug-resistant alleles may increase faster in species whose population size is down-regulated by density-dependent parasite fecundity than in species with density-dependent establishment or parasite mortality. A genetically structured population dynamics model of an indirectly transmitted nematode is used to highlight how population regulation will influence the resistance allele frequency in different parasite lifestages. Results indicate that surveys aimed at monitoring the evolution of drug resistance should consider carefully which life stage to sample, and the time following treatment samples should be collected. Anthelmintic resistance offers a good opportunity to apply fundamental evolutionary and ecological principles to the management of a potentially crucial public health problem.
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Vol. 62 • No. 3