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The dilution effect, that high host species diversity can reduce disease risk, has attracted much attention in the context of global biodiversity decline and increasing disease emergence. Recent studies have criticized the generality of the dilution effect and argued that it only occurs under certain circumstances. Nevertheless, evidence for the existence of a dilution effect was reported in about 80% of the studies that addressed the diversity–disease relationship, and a recent meta-analysis found that the dilution effect is widespread. We here review supporting and critical studies, point out the causes underlying the current disputes. The dilution is expected to be strong when the competent host species tend to remain when species diversity declines, characterized as a negative relationship between species’ reservoir competence and local extinction risk. We here conclude that most studies support a negative competence–extinction relationship. We then synthesize the current knowledge on how the diversity–disease relationship can be modified by particular species in community, by the scales of analyses, and by the disease risk measures. We also highlight the complex role of habitat fragmentation in the diversity–disease relationship from epidemiological, evolutionary and ecological perspectives, and construct a synthetic framework integrating these three perspectives. We suggest that future studies should test the diversity–disease relationship across different scales and consider the multiple effects of landscape fragmentation.
Angiostrongylus cantonensis is a metastrongyloid nematode found widely in the Asia-Pacific region, and the aetiological agent of angiostrongyliasis; a disease characterized by eosinophilic meningitis. Rattus rats are definitive hosts of A. cantonensis, while intermediate hosts include terrestrial and aquatic molluscs. Humans are dead-end hosts that usually become infected upon ingestion of infected molluscs. A presumptive diagnosis is often made based on clinical features, a history of mollusc consumption, eosinophilic pleocytosis in cerebral spinal fluid, and advanced imaging such as computed tomography. Serological tests are available for angiostrongyliasis, though many tests are still under development. While there is no treatment consensus, therapy often includes a combination of anthelmintics and corticosteroids. Angiostrongyliasis is relatively rare, but is often associated with morbidity and sometimes mortality. Recent reports suggest the parasites’ range is increasing, leading to fatalities in regions previously considered Angiostrongylus-free, and sometimes, delayed diagnosis in newly invaded regions. Increased awareness of angiostrongyliasis would facilitate rapid diagnosis and improved clinical outcomes. This paper summarizes knowledge on the parasites’ life cycle, clinical aspects and epidemiology. The molecular biology of Angiostrongylus spp. is also discussed. Attention is paid to the significance of angiostrongyliasis in Australia, given the recent severe cases reported from the Sydney region.
Parasites can exert strong effects on population to ecosystem level processes, but data on parasites are limited for many global regions, especially tropical marine systems. Characterizing parasite diversity and distributions are the first steps towards understanding the potential impacts of parasites. The Panama Canal serves as an interesting location to examine tropical parasite diversity and distribution, as it is a conduit between two oceans and a hub for international trade. We examined metazoan and protistan parasites associated with ten oyster species collected from both Panamanian coasts, including the Panama Canal and Bocas del Toro. We found multiple metazoan taxa (pea crabs, Stylochus spp., Urastoma cyrinae). Our molecular screening for protistan parasites detected four species of Perkinsus (Perkinsus marinus, Perkinsus chesapeaki, Perkinsus olseni, Perkinsus beihaiensis) and several haplosporidians, including two genera (Minchinia, Haplosporidium). Species richness was higher for the protistan parasites than for the metazoans, with haplosporidian richness being higher than Perkinsus richness. Perkinsus species were the most frequently detected and most geographically widespread among parasite groups. Parasite richness and overlap differed between regions, locations and oyster hosts. These results have important implications for tropical parasite richness and the dispersal of parasites due to shipping associated with the Panama Canal.
Leishmaniasis is a parasitic infection caused by several species of the genus Leishmania that is considered as a neglected disease. Drug development process requires a robust and updated high-throughput technology to the evaluation of candidate compounds that imply the manipulation of the pathogenic species of the parasite in the laboratory. Therefore, it is restricted to trained personal and level II biosafety environments. However, it has been established the utility of Leishmania tarentolae as a model for in vitro screening of antileishmanial agents without the necessity of level II biosafety setups. In parallel the transfection of Leishmania parasites with reporter genes as the eGFP using non-commercial integration vectors like the pIRmcs3(−) has proved to be a powerful tool for the implementation of semi automatized high-throughput platforms for the evaluation of antileishmanial compounds. Here we report the generation of a new L. tarentolae strain overexpressing the eGFP gene harboured by the non-commercial vector pIR3(−). We also demonstrate its utility for the semi-automatized screening of antileshmanial compounds in intracellular forms of the L. tarentolae parasite.
Digenean parasites infecting four Cominella whelk species (C. glandiformis, C. adspersa, C. maculosa and C. virgata), which inhabit New Zealand's intertidal zone, were analysed using molecular techniques. Mitochondrial 16S and cytochrome oxidase 1 (COI) and nuclear rDNA ITS1 sequences were used to infer phylogenetic relationships amongst digenea. Host species were parasitized by a diverse range of digenea (Platyhelminthes, Trematoda), representing seven families: Echinostomatidae, Opecoelidae, Microphallidae, Strigeidae and three, as yet, undetermined families A, B and C. Each parasite family infected between one and three host whelk species, and infection levels were typically low (average infection rates ranged from 1·4 to 3·6%). Host specificity ranged from highly species-specific amongst the echinostomes, which were only ever observed infecting C. glandiformis, to the more generalist opecoelids and strigeids, which were capable of infecting three out of four of the Cominella species analysed. Digeneans displayed a highly variable geographic range; for example, echinostomes had a large geographic range stretching the length of New Zealand, from Northland to Otago, whereas Family B parasites were restricted to fairly small areas of the North Island. Our results add to a growing body of research identifying wide ranges in both host specificity and geographic range amongst intertidal, multi-host parasite systems.
Trypanosoma cruzi, causative agent of Chagas disease, co-infects its triatomine vector with its sister species Trypanosoma rangeli, which shares 60% of its antigens with T. cruzi. Additionally, T. rangeli has been observed to be pathogenic in some of its vector species. Although T. cruzi–T. rangeli co-infections are common, their effect on the vector has rarely been investigated. Therefore, we measured the fitness (survival and reproduction) of triatomine species Rhodnius prolixus infected with just T. cruzi, just T. rangeli, or both T. cruzi and T. rangeli. We found that survival (as estimated by survival probability and hazard ratios) was significantly different between treatments, with the T. cruzi treatment group having lower survival than the co-infected treatment. Reproduction and total fitness estimates in the T. cruzi and T. rangeli treatments were significantly lower than in the co-infected and control groups. The T. cruzi and T. rangeli treatment group fitness estimates were not significantly different from each other. Additionally, co-infected insects appeared to tolerate higher doses of parasites than insects with single-species infections. Our results suggest that T. cruzi–T. rangeli co-infection could ameliorate negative effects of single infections of either parasite on R. prolixus and potentially help it to tolerate higher parasite doses.
Calculating epidemiological measures of infection by Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease, is complex, because it involves several species, different stages of infection in humans and multiple transmission routes. Using the next-generation matrix method, we analysed a model which considers the three stages of human infection, triatomines and dogs (the main domestic reservoirs of T. cruzi when triatomines are present) and the main transmission routes. We derived R0 and type-reproduction numbers T. We deduced formulas for the number of new infections generated through each transmission route by each infected individual. We applied our findings in Argentine Gran Chaco. The expressions achieved allowed quantifying the high infectivity of dogs and emphasizing the epidemiological importance of the long and asymptomatic chronic indeterminate stage in humans in the spread of the infection. According to the model, it is expected that one infected human infects 21 triatomines, that 100 infected triatomines are necessary to infect one human and 34 to infect a dog, and that each dog infects on average one triatomine per day. Our results may allow quantifying the effect of control measures on infected humans, triatomines and dogs (or other highly infected vertebrate) or on a specific route of transmission, in other scenarios.
Thessaly, Central Greece, is an endemic area for leishmaniasis with higher incidence rate during the last years. We herein investigated the geographical distribution of human leishmaniasis cases and Leishmania infected dogs in relation to environmental parameters to identify high-risk areas. All the human leishmaniasis cases (n = 82) reported to Hellenic Centre for Disease Control and Prevention from 2007 to 2014 and 85 Leishmania polymerase chain reaction positive dogs were included in this study. To analyse the data geographical information system (GIS) together with the Ecological Niche Model (ENM) were used. The most important findings of the study were: (i) Central plain of Thessaly together with the coast line and the western and eastern lowlands were identified as high-risk geographical areas. (ii) The highest percentage of the high-risk areas was found in low altitude (<200 m above sea level) and in irrigated and cultivated agricultural areas. (iii) A total of 20% of the human settlements was found in high-risk areas. (iv) The maximum temperature of the warmest month contributes the highest per cent to define both environmental niche profiles for humans and dogs. (v) The ENM could be a useful tool for the epidemiological study of leishmaniasis. Spatial analysis may allow the design of entomological studies and identify target population in order to implement preventive measures.
Premunition is the state in a disease where an existing infection protects the host from reinfection with the same species. The cause of premunition is not clearly understood. In this study, we hypothesized that kin-selection might be a contributing factor in premunition. To test this theory, sheep were infected either once with a linguiform or smooth vulval morphotype of Haemonchos contortus, twice with the same morphotype or twice with different morphotypes. All infections resulted in a similar number of adult parasites. However, there were differences in the morphotypes recovered providing potential evidence of kin selection. Negative interference competition might also contribute to the reduction of the incoming population. Allelopathic or physical interactions between the parasites may be the mechanism behind the observed phenomena.
Sex of the fetus is genetically determined such that an equal number of sons and daughters are born in large populations. However, the ratio of female to male births across human populations varies significantly. Many factors have been implicated in this. The theory that natural selection should favour female offspring under suboptimal environmental conditions implies that pathogens may affect secondary sex ratio (ratio of male to female births). Using regression models containing 13 potential confounding factors, we have found that variation of the secondary sex ratio can be predicted by seroprevalence of Toxoplasma across 94 populations distributed across African, American, Asian and European continents. Toxoplasma seroprevalence was the third strongest predictor of secondary sex ratio, β = −0·097, P < 0·01, after son preference, β = 0·261, P < 0·05, and fertility, β = −0·145, P < 0·001. Our preliminary results suggest that Toxoplasma gondii infection could be one of the most important environmental factors influencing the global variation of offspring sex ratio in humans. The effect of latent toxoplasmosis on public health could be much more serious than it is usually supposed to be.
The rosette agent Sphaerothecum destruens is a novel pathogen, which is currently believed to have been introduced into Europe along with the introduction of the invasive fish topmouth gudgeon Pseudorasbora parva (Temminck & Schlegel, 1846). Its close association with P. parva and its wide host species range and associated host mortalities, highlight this parasite as a potential source of disease emergence in European fish species. Here, using a meta-analysis of the reported S. destruens prevalence across all reported susceptible hosts species; we calculated host-specificity providing support that S. destruens is a true generalist. We have applied all the available information on S. destruens and host-range to an established framework for risk-assessing non-native parasites to evaluate the risks posed by S. destruens and discuss the next steps to manage and prevent disease emergence of this generalist parasite.
The infection status of angiostrongylosis in Jamaica was assessed in wild rats and molluscs in the 5 years following the major outbreak of eosinophilic meningitis (EM) in 2000. Parasitological analyses of 297 Rattus rattus and 140 Rattus norvegicus, and 777 terrestrial molluscs from all 14 Parishes on the island revealed Angiostrongylus cantonensis in 32·0% of the rats and in 12·5% of the molluscs. Multivariate analyses confirmed that A. cantonensis occurred significantly more frequently in R. rattus (Odds Ratio [OR] = 1·76), while mean infection intensity in R. rattus was also significantly higher (16·8) than R. norvegicus (11·3) (Mann–Whitney U-test: P = 0·01). Third-stage larvae of A. cantonensis were detected in 29% of 86 Pleurodonte spp.; in 20% of five Poteria spp.; in 18·7% of 369 Thelidomus asper; in 11% of 18 Sagda spp.; and in 6% of 24 veronicellid slugs. Most rodent infections occurred in Northeastern Jamaica (OR = 11·66), a region where infected molluscs were also abundant. Given the prevalence of A. cantonensis infection in rats has significantly increased since the 2000 outbreak, and that a survey of human infections revealed at least ten autochthonous cases in the last 15 years, angiostrongylosis persists as an important zoonosis in Jamaica.