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Implications of increased susceptibility to predation for managing the sylvatic cycle of Echinococcus multilocularis

  • M. VERVAEKE (a1), S. DAVIS (a1), H. LEIRS (a1) and R. VERHAGEN (a1)

The ability to increase the chances that infectious prey are taken by predators is an observed feature of many parasites that rely on one or more predator-prey relationships to complete their life-cycle. In the sylvatic life-cycle of Echinococcus multilocularis – the causative agent of human alveolar echinococcosis – foxes are the final host, with voles acting as intermediate hosts. Here we review the evidence that E. multilocularis causes increased susceptibility to predation and present a general mathematical model for the sylvatic life-cycle. The ability to increase susceptibility to predation in the intermediate host reduces the sensitivity of the parasite population to adverse conditions. For example, there is no critical density of foxes below which the parasite is expected to die out, even if the effect of the parasite on infected prey is very small. We suggest that increased susceptibility to predation is a plausible explanation for the observed resilience of E. multilocularis during and following field trials of praziquantel baiting.

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