Prevalence survey on lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum, Crenosoma vulpis, Eucoleus aerophilus) infections of wild red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in central Germany
Background: Angiostrongylus vasorum, Crenosoma vulpis and Eucoleus aerophilus are a source of increasing concern, potentially causing significant pulmonary and severe cardiac/systemic diseases in domestic dogs and wild canids, especially red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). To investigate the prevalence and geographical distribution of these parasites in ... central Germany, a total of 569 foxes were examined by dissection.Methods: Pluck (heart and lung) and faecal samples of red foxes were collected from three regions of Germany. Lungs, hearts and adjacent vessels were processed for adult nematode detection. Parasitological diagnoses of faecal samples were performed by SAF technique, Giardia- and Cryptosporidium-Coproantigen-ELISAs and by a duplex copro-PCR for the detection of A. vasorum and C. vulpis DNA. Results: Foxes originated from three Federal States of central Germany: Thuringia (n=359); Rhineland-Palatinate (n=121) and Hesse (n=89). High prevalences for all three nematodes were detected, with E. aerophilus (69.4%; 395/569), followed by C. vulpis (32.3%; 184/569) and A. vasorum (14.1%; 80/569). In case of A. vasorum, prevalences varied significantly between Federal States, with the highest prevalence of 27.3% in Rhineland-Palatinate, followed by 19.1% and 8.4% in Hesse and Thuringia, respectively. The presence of A. vasorum in fox populations showed a rather patchy distribution, increasing from north-eastern to south-western regions. Analyses on C. vulpis revealed prevalences of 35.1%, 30.3% and 25.6% (Thuringia, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, respectively). The most prevalent lungworm nematode was E. aerophilus, with a prevalence of 75.2%, 71.9% and 66.9% (Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and Thuringia, respectively) and an almost area-wide equal distribution. Significant differences for single parasite prevalences within geographical regions of the Federal States could be detected whilst no correlation between age or gender and parasite occurrence was estimated. Weak seasonality for the winter months for A. vasorum, stronger correlation to spring and late summer for C. vulpis and no correlation to any season for E. aerophilus were detected. The method of dissection revealed a significantly higher sensitivity for C. vulpis when compared with the results of the duplex copro-PCR.Conclusions: A sylvatic cycle was confirmed for all three lungworm nematodes in the examined area. The prevalences for all three lungworm nematodes are some of the highest recorded so far in German foxes. The data suggest that A. vasorum might be spreading from south-western to north-eastern parts of Germany.