Over a period of 26 months from January 1996 to February 1998, 388 foxes from the city of Zürich, Switzerland, were examined for intestinal infections with Echinococcus multilocularis and other helminths. The prevalence of E. multilocularis in foxes sampled during winter increased significantly from 47% in the urban to 67% in the adjacent recreational area, whereas prevalence rates of other helminths were similar in both areas. Seasonal differences in the prevalence of E. multilocularis were only found in urban subadult male foxes which were significantly less frequently infected in summer than in winter. The distribution of the Echinococcus biomass, as expressed by worm numbers per fox was overdispersed in 133 infected foxes randomly sampled in winter. Ten of these foxes (8%) were infected with more than 10000 specimens and carried 72% of the total biomass of E. multilocularis (398653 worms). Prevalences did not differ significantly in these foxes in regard to age and sex but worm burdens were significantly higher in subadult foxes as compared with adult foxes. In voles (Arvicola terrestris) trapped in a city park of Zürich, E. multilocularis metacestodes were identified by morphological examination and by PCR. The prevalence was 20% among 60 rodents in 1997 and 9% among 75 rodents in 1998. Protoscoleces occurred in 2 of the cases from 1997. The possible risk for human infection is discussed with respect to the established urban E. multilocularis cycle.
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