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

  • L. A. REPERANT (a1), D. HEGGLIN (a1), I. TANNER (a1), C. FISCHER (a2) and P. DEPLAZES (a1)...

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.

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