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Echinococcus multilocularis and other zoonotic parasites in red foxes in Estonia


Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the most widely distributed canid in the world and an important source of multiple zoonotic pathogens capable of causing life-threatening diseases, such as rabies and alveolar echinococcosis. Informing general public of potential risks related to foxes is becoming more important since the fox densities have increased in many countries and the species is colonizing urban areas in Europe and around the world with increasing pace, bringing zoonotic pathogens to the immediate neighbourhood of humans and their companion animals. The aim of this study was to examine the parasite fauna of red foxes in Estonia. We found in Estonian foxes a total of 17 endoparasite taxa, including ten zoonotic species. All the analysed individuals were infected and the average parasite species richness was 6·37. However, the infection rates varied to a very large extent for different parasite species, ranging from 0·9 to 91·5%. Of zoonotic species, the highest infection rate was observed for Alaria alata (90·7%), Eucoleus aerophilus (87·6%) and Uncinaria stenocephala (84·3%). The prevalence of tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, a causative agent for alveolar echinococcosis, was also relatively high (31·5%), presenting a potential risk to human health.

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*Corresponding author. Department of Zoology, Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences, University of Tartu, Vanemuise 46, 51014 Tartu, Estonia. E-mail:
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