Grass height and transmission ecology of Echinococcus multilocularis in Tibetan communities, China.
Additional Document Info
BACKGROUND: Alveolar echinococcosis is a major zoonosis of public health significance in western China. Overgrazing was recently assumed as a potential risk factor for transmission of alveolar echinococcosis. The research was designed to further test the overgrazing hypothesis by investigating how overgrazing influenced the burrow density of intermediate host small mammals and how the burrow density of small mammals was associated with dog Echinococcus multilocularis infection. METHODS: The study sites were chosen by previous studies which found areas where the alveolar echinococcosis was prevalent. The data, including grass height, burrow density of intermediate host small mammals, dog and fox fecal samples as well as Global Positioning System (GPS) position, were collected from field investigations in Shiqu County, Sichuan Province, China. The fecal samples were analyzed using copro-PCR. The worms, teeth, bones and hairs in the fecal samples were visually examined. Single factor and multifactor analyses tools including chi square and generalized linear models were applied to these data. RESULTS: By using grass height as a proxy of grazing pressure in the homogenous pasture, this study found that taller grass in the pasture led to lower small mammals' burrow density (chi(2) = 4.670, P = 0.031, coefficient = -1.570). The Echinococcus multilocularis worm burden in dogs was statistically significantly related to the maximum density of the intermediate host Ochotona spp. (chi(2) = 5.250, P = 0.022, coefficient = 0.028). The prevalence in owned dogs was positively correlated to the number of stray dogs seen within a 200 meter radius (Wald chi(2) = 8.375, P = 0.004, odds ratio = 1.198). CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the hypothesis that overgrazing promotes transmission of alveolar echinococcosis and confirm the role of stray dogs in the transmission of alveolar echinococcosis.