Ticks and tick-borne diseases are important in human and livestock health worldwide. In November 2012, ixodid ticks were collected and identified morphologically from cattle and wild animals in the Maswa district and Iringa urban, Tanzania. Amblyomma gemma, A. lepidum, and A. variegatum were identified from Maswa cattle, and A. variegatum was the predominant species. A. marmoreum, Hyalomma impeltatum, and Rhipicephalus pulchellus were identified from Iringa cattle in addition to the above 3 Amblyomma species, and A. gemma was the most abundant species. Total 4 Amblyomma and 6 Rhipicephalus species were identified from wild animals of the 2 areas. A. lepidum was predominant in Maswa buffaloes, whereas A. gemma was predominant in Iringa buffaloes. Overall, A. variegatum in cattle was predominant in the Maswa district and A. gemma was predominant in Iringa, Tanzania.
Compared to their main competitors, African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) have inferior competitive abilities and interspecific competition is a serious fitness-limiting factor. Lions (Panthera leo) are the dominant large carnivore in African savannah ecosystems and wild dogs avoid them both spatially and temporally. Wild dog young are particularly vulnerable and suffer high rates of mortality from lions. Since lions do not utilize all parts of the landscape with an equal intensity, spatial variation in lion densities can be exploited by wild dogs both during their general ranging behaviour, but more specifically when they are confined to a den with vulnerable young. Since patches of rugged terrain are associated with lower lion densities, we hypothesized that these comparatively safe habitats should be selected by wild dogs for denning. We investigated the relationship between the distribution of 100 wild dog den sites and the occurrence of rugged terrain in four wild dog populations located in Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa. A terrain ruggedness index was derived from a 90 m digital elevation model and used to map terrain ruggedness at each site. We compared characteristics of actual and potential (random) den sites to determine how wild dogs select den sites. The distributions of wild dog dens were strongly associated with rugged terrain and wild dogs actively selected terrain that was more rugged than that available on average. The likelihood of encountering lions is reduced in these habitats, minimizing the risk to both adults and pups. Our findings have important implications for the conservation management of the species, especially when assessing habitat suitability for potential reintroductions. The simple technique used to assess terrain ruggedness may be useful to investigate habitat suitability, and even predict highly suitable denning areas, across large landscapes.
We investigated peste des petits ruminants (PPR) infection in cattle and wildlife in northern Tanzania. No wildlife from protected ecosystems were seropositive. However, cattle from villages where an outbreak had occurred among small ruminants showed high PPR seropositivity, indicating that spillover infection affects cattle. Thus, cattle could be of value for PPR serosurveillance.
Anthrax is endemic throughout Africa, causing considerable livestock and wildlife losses and severe, sometimes fatal, infection in humans. Predicting the risk of infection is therefore important for public health, wildlife conservation and livestock economies. However, because of the intermittent and variable nature of anthrax outbreaks, associated environmental and climatic conditions, and diversity of species affected, the ecology of this multihost pathogen is poorly understood.We explored records of anthrax from the Serengeti ecosystem in north-west Tanzania where the disease has been documented in humans, domestic animals and a range of wildlife. Using spatial and temporal case-detection and seroprevalence data from wild and domestic animals, we investigated spatial, environmental, climatic and species-specific associations in exposure and disease.Anthrax was detected annually in numerous species, but large outbreaks were spatially localized, mostly affecting a few focal herbivores.Soil alkalinity and cumulative weather extremes were identified as useful spatial and temporal predictors of exposure and infection risk, and for triggering the onset of large outbreaks.Interacting ecological and behavioural factors, specifically functional groups and spatiotemporal overlap, helped to explain the variable patterns of infection and exposure among species.Synthesis and applications. Our results shed light on ecological drivers of anthrax infection and suggest that soil alkalinity and prolonged droughts or rains are useful predictors of disease occurrence that could guide risk-based surveillance. These insights should inform strategies for managing anthrax including prophylactic livestock vaccination, timing of public health warnings and antibiotic provision in high-risk areas. However, this research highlights the need for greater surveillance (environmental, serological and case-detection-orientated) to determine the mechanisms underlying anthrax dynamics.
1. The long-term ecological impact of pathogens on group-living, large mammal populations is largely unknown. We evaluated the impact of a pathogenic bacterium, Streptococcus equi ruminatorum, and other key ecological factors on the dynamics of the spotted hyena Crocuta crocuta population in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. 2. We compared key demographic parameters during two years when external signs of bacterial infection were prevalent (outbreak) and periods of five years before and after the outbreak when such signs were absent or rare. We also tested for density dependence and calculated the basic reproductive rate R(0) of the bacterium. 3. During the five pre-outbreak years, the mean annual hyena mortality rate was 0.088, and annual population growth was relatively high (13.6%). During the outbreak, mortality increased by 78% to a rate of 0.156, resulting in an annual population decline of 4.3%. After the outbreak, population size increased moderately (5.1%) during the first three post-outbreak years before resuming a growth similar to pre-outbreak levels (13.9%). We found no evidence that these demographic changes were driven by density dependence or other ecological factors. 4. Most hyenas showed signs of infection when prey abundance in their territory was low. During the outbreak, mortality increased among adult males and yearlings, but not among adult females - the socially dominant group members. These results suggest that infection and mortality were modulated by factors linked to low social status and poor nutrition. During the outbreak, we estimated R(0) for the bacterium to be 2.7, indicating relatively fast transmission. 5. Our results suggest that the short-term top-down impact of S. equi ruminatorum during the outbreak was driven by bottom-up effects on nutritionally disadvantaged age-sex classes, whereas the longer-term post-outbreak reduction in population growth was caused by poor survival of juveniles during the outbreak and subsequent poor recruitment of breeding females. These results suggest synergistic effects of bottom-up and top-down processes on host population dynamics.
Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax, is responsible for varying death rates among animal species. Difficulties in case detection, hazardous or inaccessible carcasses, and misdiagnosis hinder surveillance. Using case reports and a new serologic assay that enables multispecies comparisons, we examined exposure to and illness caused by B. anthracis in different species in the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania during 1996-2009 and the utility of serosurveillance. High seroprevalence among carnivores suggested regular nonfatal exposure. Seropositive wildebeest and buffalo showed that infection was not invariably fatal among herbivores, whereas absence of seropositivity in zebras and frequent detection of fatal cases indicated high susceptibility. Exposure patterns in dogs reflected known patterns of endemicity and provided new information about anthrax in the ecosystem, which indicated the potential of dogs as indicator species. Serosurveillance is a valuable tool for monitoring and detecting anthrax and may shed light on mechanisms responsible for species-specific variability in exposure, susceptibility, and mortality rates.
In 2007, disease related mortality occurred in one African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) pack close to the north-eastern boundary of the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Histopathological examination of tissues from six animals revealed that the main pathologic changes comprised interstitial pneumonia and suppurative to necrotizing bronchopneumonia. Respiratory epithelial cells contained numerous eosinophilic intracytoplasmic inclusion bodies and multiple syncytial cells were found throughout the parenchymal tissue, both reacting clearly positive with antibodies against canine distemper virus (CDV) antigen. Phylogenetic analysis based on a 388 nucleotide (nt) fragment of the CDV phosphoprotein (P) gene revealed that the pack was infected with a CDV variant most closely related to Tanzanian variants, including those obtained in 1994 during a CDV epidemic in the Serengeti National Park and from captive African wild dogs in the Mkomazi Game Reserve in 2000. Phylogenetic analysis of a 335-nt fragment of the fusion (F) gene confirmed that the pack in 2007 was infected with a variant most closely related to one variant from 1994 during the epidemic in the Serengeti National Park from which a comparable fragment is available. Screening of tissue samples for concurrent infections revealed evidence of canine parvovirus, Streptococcus equi subsp. ruminatorum and Hepatozoon sp. No evidence of infection with Babesia sp. or rabies virus was found. Possible implications of concurrent infections are discussed. This is the first molecular characterisation of CDV in free-ranging African wild dogs and only the third confirmed case of fatal CDV infection in a free-ranging pack.
In 2001, Ngorongoro Crater was infested with high density of ticks on grassland, livestock and wildlife which was also associated with high mortality. Adult ticks were collected, identified, processed for nucleic acids extraction and a molecular analysis was performed to determine the range of tick species harboring Anaplasma marginale. The real-time PCR was used in the amplification of rickettsia DNA in tick pools (n=527) from 11 identified tick species. Six tick species were detected with A. marginale DNA including Amblyomma gemma, Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, R. compositus, R.decoloratus, R. praetextatus and R. pulchellus. The detection rate in each tick species was 3%, 0.7%, 2%, 13%, 1.8%, and 6.2%, respectively. Five of the positive tick species excluding R.decoloratus have previously not been described to transmit A. marginale. High diversity of tick species detected with A. marginale in Ngorongoro Crater is likely to increase a risk to susceptible animals of contracting the infection.
Despite the apparent public health concern about Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) in Tanzania, little has been done regarding the zoonotic importance of the disease and raising awareness of the community to prevent the disease. Bovine tuberculosis is a potential zoonotic disease that can infect a variety of hosts, including humans. The presence of multiple hosts including wild animals, inefficient diagnostic techniques, absence of defined national controls and eradication programs could impede the control of bovine TB. In Tanzania, the diagnosis of Mycobacterium bovis in animals is mostly carried out by tuberculin skin testing, meat inspection in abattoirs and only rarely using bacteriological techniques. The estimated prevalence of BTB in animals in Tanzania varies and ranges across regions from 0.2% to 13.3%, which is likely to be an underestimate if not confirmed by bacteriology or molecular techniques. Mycobacterium bovis has been detected and isolated from different animal species and has been recovered in 10% of apparently healthy wildebeest that did not show lesions at post-mortem. The transmission of the disease from animals to humans can occur directly through the aerosol route and indirectly by consumption of raw milk. This poses an emerging disease threat in the current era of HIV confection in Tanzania and elsewhere. Mycobacterium bovis is one of the causative agents of human extra pulmonary tuberculosis. In Tanzania there was a significant increase (116.6%) of extrapulmonary cases reported between 1995 and 2009, suggesting the possibility of widespread M. bovis and Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection due to general rise of Human Immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This paper aims to review the potential health and economic impact of bovine tuberculosis and challenges to its control in order to safeguard human and animal population in Tanzania.
It has been known for decades that wild baboons are naturally infected with Treponema pallidum, the bacterium that causes the diseases syphilis (subsp. pallidum), yaws (subsp. pertenue), and bejel (subsp. endemicum) in humans. Recently, a form of T. pallidum infection associated with severe genital lesions has been described in wild baboons at Lake Manyara National Park in Tanzania. In this study, we investigated ten additional sites in Tanzania and Kenya using a combination of macroscopic observation and serology, in order to determine whether the infection was present in each area. In addition, we obtained genetic sequence data from six polymorphic regions using T. pallidum strains collected from baboons at two different Tanzanian sites. We report that lesions consistent with T. pallidum infection were present at four of the five Tanzanian sites examined, and serology was used to confirm treponemal infection at three of these. By contrast, no signs of treponemal infection were observed at the six Kenyan sites, and serology indicated T. pallidum was present at only one of them. A survey of sexually mature baboons at Lake Manyara National Park in 2006 carried out as part of this study indicated that roughly ten percent displayed T. pallidum-associated lesions severe enough to cause major structural damage to the genitalia. Finally, we found that T. pallidum strains from Lake Manyara National Park and Serengeti National Park were genetically distinct, and a phylogeny suggested that baboon strains may have diverged prior to the clade containing human strains. We conclude that T. pallidum infection associated with genital lesions appears to be common in the wild baboons of the regions studied in Tanzania. Further study is needed to elucidate the infections transmission mode, its associated morbidity and mortality, and the relationship between baboon and human strains.
The importance of wildlife as reservoirs of African trypanosomes pathogenic to man and livestock is well recognised. While new species of trypanosomes and their variants have been identified in tsetse populations, our knowledge of trypanosome species that are circulating in wildlife populations and their genetic diversity is limited.
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