We investigated the genotypic composition of the digenetic parasite Schistosoma mansoni for its adult stages within the definitive host (the wild rat, Rattus rattus) and for the larval stages within the intermediate host (the snail, Biomphalaria glabrata) both collected at the same transmission site. Our analyses are based upon the recognition and distribution of 200 different multilocus genotypes generated by RAPD markers. While intramolluscan larval infrapopulations are characterized by a low infection rate (0·6% on average) and low intra-host genetic diversity (1·1 genotype on average per infected snail), adult infrapopulations within rats showed a high infection rate (94%) and a substantial intra-host genetic diversity (34 genotypes on average) linked to high intensities (160 worms per host on average). A single definitive host bearing 105 different genotypes harboured 52% of the total genetic diversity detected within the whole parasite population. Analysis of the genetic data allowed the identification of various ecological, behavioural and immunological factors which are likely to enhance transmission of multiple parasite genotypes towards the vertebrate hosts. From the distribution of repeated identical multilocus genotypes within the parasite population and among the hosts, we have inferred different parameters of the cercarial transmission efficiency as well as patterns and processes by which vertebrate hosts acquire infection in the field.