Leishmania major infection in the fat sand rat Psammomys obesus in Tunisia: interaction of host and parasite populations

Abstract : The causative agent of cutaneous leishmaniasis, Leishmania major, was studied in a Tunisian population of the fat sand rat, Psammomys obesus. Seasonal changes in the abundances of parasite and host were monitored in a longitudinal field survey lasting 21 months. Overall, 566 P. obesus, collected during 10 trapping sessions between May 1995 and January 1997, were examined. Analysis of prevalence, using logistic regression, revealed that extrinsic factors, such as season and climatic conditions, and intrinsic factors, such as host age, have a combined effect. Leishmania major showed a seasonal pattern, with most transmission occurring in late summer and in autumn, when prevalences were 7.5- and 6.6-fold higher, respectively, than in spring. Prevalence peaked, at 70%, in September 1995 and then decreased to 0% in June 1996. The same temporal fluctuation was observed during the second study year, albeit among prevalences that were relatively low because of unusually dry conditions. Prevalence was highly dependent on the age of the P. obesus, and season and age acted in synergy so that the rodents were highly infected in late summer and in autumn. Prevalence was not correlated with the relative density of the P. obesus and also appeared independent of gender. Although the ear lesions observed on 378 sand rats during a 1-year survey were closely associated with Leishmania infection, such lesions were not good predictors of infection, as 35% of the rodents found to be infected had no visible lesions on their ears. The prevalences of Leishmania infection observed in this study, among P. obesus living in monospecific colonies, were generally lower than those observed in other studies of P. obesus. It seems possible that P. obesus living in monospecific colonies could have a lesser role in propagating the parasite than those living in plurispecific colonies of rodents, and act as an 'epidemiological sink'.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, February 19, 2019 - 11:36:54 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, June 19, 2019 - 1:03:21 AM

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E. Fichet-Calvet, I. Jomâa, R. Ben Ismail, R.W. Ashford. Leishmania major infection in the fat sand rat Psammomys obesus in Tunisia: interaction of host and parasite populations. Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, Maney Publishing, 2003, 97 (6), pp.593-603. ⟨10.1179/000349803225001517⟩. ⟨pasteur-02024625⟩

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