Acta Parasitologica, Vol. 50, No. 3, 2005, 221-227 Muriel Vervaeke(1)*, Pierre Dorny(2,3), Luc De Bruyn(1,4), Francis Vercammen(2), Kurt Jordaens(1), Koen Van Den Berge(5) and Ron Verhagen(1) - A survey of intestinal helminths of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in northern Belgium
(1)Department of Biology, Evolutionary Biology, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, B-2020 Antwerpen; (2)Department of Animal Health, Institute of Tropical Medicine, Nationalestraat 155, B-2000 Antwerpen; (3)Department of Virology, Parasitology and
Immunology, University of Ghent, Salisburylaan 133, B-9820 Merelbeke; (4)Institute of Nature Conservation, Kliniekstraat 25, B-1070 Brussel; (5)Institute for Forestry and Game Management, Gaverstraat 4, B-9500 Geraardsbergen; Belgium
*Corresponding author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Between 1994 and 1999, 219 red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) were collected in northern Belgium and examined for intestinal helminths. The effects of host-related (age, sex, body mass/size ratio) and temporal factors on the prevalence and on the number of parasite species per individual host were investigated. The following parasites were found: cestodes Echinococcus multilocularis (1.8%), Dipylidium caninum (0.9%) and Taenia spp. (2.7%), nematodes Toxocara canis, Toxascaris leonina (47.9%)
and Uncinaria stenocephala (31.5%), and trematode species (0.9%). Of all foxes, 82 (37.4%) proved to be fully negative. We found no host-related (sex, age) nor temporal effect on parasite occurrence and on the number of parasite species per individual host. Unparasitised adult foxes had a higher body mass/size ratio than hosts with intestinal parasites and also the number of parasite species per individual was negatively related with this rough index of host body condition. The presence of these zoonotic parasites in a region with a very high human population density urges a close surveillance of these parasites as they may lead to expansions of helminthoses in (northern) Belgium. Finally, this study emphasizes the need to study the prevalence of intestinal helminths in regions that are recently colonised by red foxes since such studies may add to our understanding of the emergence, the temporal spread and the persistence of zoonoses in Europe.
KEY WORDS: Vulpes vulpes, intestinal helminths, epidemiology, zoonoses, Belgium
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