Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Predators in northern Germany are reservoirs for parasites of One Health concern

Urbanisation and invasion of wildlife into urban areas as well as human leisure activities create diverse wildlife-domestic animal-human interfaces, increasing the risk of (zoonotic) parasite spillover from sylvatic to domestic and synanthropic cycles. This study investigated the endo- and ectoparasite fauna, emphasising on parasites of One Health Concern, of the most common predators in northern Germany between November 2013 and January 2016. Eighty red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), 18 stone martens (Martes foina) and nine raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) were available for the study. Overall, 79 (73.8%) of the examined predators (n=107) harboured at least one endoparasite. The most frequently detected endoparasites in red foxes were Toxocara canis (43.8% positive individuals), Capillaria spp. (36.3%), Alaria alata (25.0%), Echinococcus multilocularis (26.3%) and Uncinaria stenocephala (25.0%). Furthermore, Toxascaris leonina, Trichuris vulpis, Taenia ssp., Mesocestoides spp. and coccidian oocysts were observed. The endoparasite species richness in raccoon dogs was comparable to red foxes, while in stone martens, only Capillaria spp. were found. Muscle digestion for detection of Trichinella spp. and antigen testing for Giardia spp. did not show positive results. Ectoparasite analyses revealed infestations with ticks species of the genus Ixodes as well as Dermacentor reticulatus. Scabies mites were not present in digested skin samples, while Demodex spp. mites were observed by faecal flotation in one red fox. Furthermore, fleas (Archaeopsylla erinacei and Chaetopsylla globiceps) were observed in the fur of red foxes, while lice were not present in any predator species. However, infestation frequency with ectoparasites was with 19.2% generally low in available predator skins (n=99). Overall, the present study showed that predators in northern Germany serve as reservoirs for parasites of One Health concern, with four of the five most frequent endoparasites being zoonotic, highlighting the need of parasite surveillance in wildlife predators in order to implement measures avoiding spillovers to domestic animals and humans.

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