Parasitology

Research Article

Rodents as shared indicators for zoonotic parasites of carnivores in urban environments

L. A. REPERANTa1 p1, D. HEGGLINa1, I. TANNERa1, C. FISCHERa2 and P. DEPLAZESa1 c1

a1 Institute of Parasitology, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 266a, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland

a2 Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Bâtiment de Biologie, CH-1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

SUMMARY

Rodents are shared intermediate or paratenic hosts for Echinococcus multilocularis, Toxocara spp. and Toxoplasma gondii, and may serve as valuable indicators for assessing the occurrence and the level of environmental contamination and infection pressure with free-living stages of these zoonotic parasites. We investigated 658 non-commensal rodents for parasite infections in the canton of Geneva, Switzerland. The prevalence of infection with E. multilocularis was highest in Arvicola terrestris captured in the north-western area (16·5%, CI: 10·1%–24·8%), possibly reflecting a higher red fox density due to the low incidence of sarcoptic mange in this part of the canton. The exposure rate to Toxocara spp. was highest in the urban area (13·2%, CI: 7·9%–20·3%), and may account for higher densities of domestic carnivore and red fox definitive hosts within the city. Exposure to T. gondii was widespread (5·0%, CI: 3·2–7·4%), indicating a ubiquitous distribution of infected cat definitive hosts. Interestingly, a widespread distribution of Taenia taeniaeformis, a parasite mainly transmitted by cats, was similarly evidenced in A. terrestris. Distinct spatial patterns for the different zoonotic parasites likely reflected differences in distribution, abundance, and habitat use of the respective definitive hosts. These results highlight the potential value of rodents as shared indicators for these pathogens.

(Received July 24 2008)

(Revised November 11 2008)

(Accepted November 13 2008)

(Online publication January 21 2009)

Correspondence:

c1 Corresponding author: Institute of Parasitology, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 266a, CH-8057 Zurich, Switzerland. Tel: +41 44 63 58 501. Fax: +41 44 63 58 907. E-mail: deplazesp@access.uzh.ch

p1 Present address: Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-1003, USA.

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