Spatial and temporal aspects of urban transmission of Echinococcus multilocularis

C.  STIEGER  a1 , D.  HEGGLIN  a1 a2 , G.  SCHWARZENBACH  a2 , A.  MATHIS  a1 and P.  DEPLAZES  a1 c1
a1 Institute of Parasitology, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 266a, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland
a2 Zoological Museum, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland

Article author query
stieger c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
hegglin d   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
schwarzenbach g   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
mathis a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
deplazes p   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


High prevalences of Echinococcus multilocularis have been reported from foxes of the city of Zurich, Switzerland. In order to characterize transmission in urban areas, a coproantigen ELISA was evaluated for diagnosing the infection in fox faecal samples collected in the environment. In addition, trapped rodents were investigated for the presence of metacestodes. Faecal samples could reliably be classified as being of fox origin by assessing physical properties as shown by the different parasite spectra of putative fox and dog faecal specimens. From the total of 604 tested putative fox faecal samples 156 (25·8%) were positive in the ELISA with a distinct increase in the proportion of positive samples from the urban to the periurban zone. Furthermore, samples collected in the border zone had significantly more coproantigen-positive results during winter. Prevalence of E. multilocularis in rodents was 9·1% (81/889) for Arvicola terrestris (with 3·5% of the animals harbouring between 14 and 244400 protoscoleces) and 2·4% (2/83) for Clethrionomys glareolus. E. multilocularis-infected A. terrestris were found in 9 of 10 trapping sites in the border zone. The high infection pressure in the periphery of urban areas might pose a risk for infection with E. multilocularis for both domestic carnivores as well as for urban inhabitants. Interventions into the cycle aiming at reducing the infection pressure should therefore focus on these areas.

(Received October 29 2001)
(Revised January 17 2002)
(Accepted January 17 2002)

Key Words: Echinococcus multilocularis; diagnosis; fox; rodents; urban area; infection pressure.

c1 Corresponding author: Institute of Parasitology, Winterthurerstrasse 266a, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland. Tel: +41 1 6358501. Fax: +41 1 6358907. E-mail: