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Parasites at the Wildlife-Domestic Animal Interface

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Front. Vet. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fvets.2018.00030

Transmission of Helminths between Species of Ruminants in Austria Appears More Likely to Occur than Generally Assumed

Jakob Winter1, 2, Steffen Rehbein3 and  Anja Joachim1*
  • 1Department für Pathobiologie, Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien, Austria
  • 2Vetsuisse-Fakultät (Veterinärmedizin), Universität Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Katharinenhof Research Center, Boehringer Ingelheim (Germany), Germany

Helminth infections of the gastrointestinal tract and lungs can lead to devastating economical losses to the pastoral based animal production. Farm animals can suffer from malnutrition, tissue damage and blood loss resulting in impaired production traits and reproduction parameters. In Austria, pastures grazed by sheep, goats and cattle overlap with the habitats of several species of wild cervids (roe deer, red deer, sika deer, fallow deer) and bovids (mouflon, chamois, ibex), and transmission of parasites between different ruminant species seems likely. A complete and updated overview on the occurrence of helminths of domestic and wild ruminants in Austria is presented. Based on these data, intersections of the host spectrum of the determined parasites were depicted. The “Liability-index” was applied to identify the ruminant species which most likely transmit parasites between each other. A degree for host-specificity was calculated for each parasite species based on the average taxonomic distance of their host species. Of the 73 identified helminth species 42 were identified as generalists, and 14 transmission experiments supported the assumed broad host specificity for 14 generalists and one specialist helminth species. Overall 61 helminths were found to infect more than one host species, and four were found in all ten ruminant species investigated. From these analyses it can be concluded that a number of helminth parasites of the gastrointestinal tract and the lungs are potentially transmitted between domestic and wild ruminants in Austria. For some parasites and host species, experimental evidence is in support for possible transmission, while for other such studies are lacking. Host preference of different genotypes of the same parasite species may have a confounding effect on the evaluation of cross-transmission, but so far this has not been evaluated systematically in helminths in Austria. Further studies focusing on experimental cross-transmission and genetic characterization are needed to define the potential consequences for the epidemiology of those parasites, animal welfare and economic impact.

Keywords: Cervidae, Bovidae, Cestodes, Nematodes, Liability index, Biodiversity Index, ABOL, trematodes

Received: 15 Dec 2017; Accepted: 15 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Donato Traversa, Università di Teramo, Italy

Reviewed by:

Laura Rinaldi, University of Napoli, Italy
Edwin Claerebout, Ghent University, Belgium  

Copyright: © 2018 Winter, Rehbein and Joachim. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Anja Joachim, Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien, Department für Pathobiologie, Veterinaerplatz 1, Vienna, 1210, Austria,