Eco-epidemiological screening of multi-host wild rodent communities in the UK reveals pathogen strains of zoonotic interest

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Abstract

Wild rodent communities represent ideal systems to study pathogens and parasites shared among sympatric species. Such studies are useful in the investigation of eco-epidemiological dynamics, improving disease management strategies and reducing zoonotic risk. The aim of this study was to investigate pathogen and parasites shared among rodent species (multi-host community) in West Wales in an area where human/wildlife disease risk was not previously assessed. West Wales is predominantly rural, with human settlements located alongside to grazing areas and semi-natural landscapes, creating a critical human-livestock-wildlife interface. Ground-dwelling wild rodent communities in Wales were live-trapped and biological samples – faeces and ectoparasites – collected and screened for a suite of pathogens and parasites that differ in types of transmission and ecology. Faecal samples were examined to detect Herpesvirus, Escherichia coli, and Mycobacterium microti. Ticks and fleas were collected, identified to species based on morphology and genetic barcodes, and then screened for Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato, and Bartonella sp. All the pathogens and parasites screened pose a characteristic epidemiological challenge, such as variable level of generalism, unknown zoonotic potential, and lack of data. The results showed that the bank vole Myodes glareolus had the highest prevalence of all pathogens and parasites. Higher flea species diversity was detected than in previous studies, and at least two Bartonella species were found circulating, one of which has not previously been detected in the UK. These key findings offer new insights into the distribution of selected pathogen and parasites and subsequent zoonotic risk, and provide new baselines and perspectives for further eco-epidemiological research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278-287
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife
Volume17
Early online date15 Mar 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2022

Keywords

  • Babesia microti
  • Bartonella sp.
  • Fleas
  • Ixodid ticks
  • Wild rodents
  • Zoonoses

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