Abstract It has been 11 years since Anderson and May demonstrated the theoretical ability of helminth parasites to regulate host population abundance. In this review we consider how their work has advanced our understanding of the role of parasites in host populations. In particular Marilyn Scott and Andy Dobson consider three questions. What is meant by regulation? Is there empirical evidence that parasites can regulate host population abundance? Is it possible to predict the sort of host parasite association where one is most likely to be able to detect parasites as a major regulatory force?