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Leptospira species in feral cats and black rats from Western Australia and Christmas Island

Dybing, N.A., Jacobson, C., Irwin, P.J., Algar, D. and Adams, P.J. (2017) Leptospira species in feral cats and black rats from Western Australia and Christmas Island. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases, 17 (5). pp. 319-324.

Link to Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/vbz.2016.1992
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Abstract

Leptospirosis is a neglected, re-emerging bacterial disease with both zoonotic and conservation implications. Rats and livestock are considered the usual sources of human infection, but all mammalian species are capable of carrying Leptospira spp. and transmitting pathogenic leptospires in their urine, and uncertainty remains about the ecology and transmission dynamics of Leptospira in different regions. In light of a recent case of human leptospirosis on tropical Christmas Island, this study aimed to investigate the role of introduced animals (feral cats and black rats) as carriers of pathogenic Leptospira spp. on Christmas Island and to compare this with two different climatic regions of Western Australia (one island and one mainland). Kidney samples were collected from black rats (n = 68) and feral cats (n = 59) from Christmas Island, as well as feral cats from Dirk Hartog Island (n = 23) and southwest Western Australia (n = 59). Molecular (PCR) screening detected pathogenic leptospires in 42.4% (95% confidence interval 29.6–55.9) of cats and 2.9% (0.4–10.2) of rats from Christmas Island. Sequencing of cat- and rat-positive samples from Christmas Island showed 100% similarity for Leptospira interrogans. Pathogenic leptospires were not detected in cats from Dirk Hartog Island or southwest Western Australia. These findings were consistent with previous reports of higher Leptospira spp. prevalence in tropical regions compared with arid and temperate regions. Despite the abundance of black rats on Christmas Island, feral cats appear to be the more important reservoir species for the persistence of pathogenic L. interrogans on the island. This research highlights the importance of disease surveillance and feral animal management to effectively control potential disease transmission.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/36701
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