A Survey of Zoonotic Pathogens Carried by Non-Indigenous Rodents at the Interface of the Wet Tropics of North Queensland, Australia

Published Date
Transboundary & Emerging Diseases
Chakma S
Picard J
Duffy R
Constantinoiu C
Gummow B

In 1964, Brucella was isolated from rodents trapped in Wooroonooran National Park (WNP), in Northern Queensland, Australia. Genotyping of bacterial isolates in 2008 determined that they were a novel Brucella species. This study attempted to reisolate this species of Brucella from rodents living in the boundary area adjacent to WNP and to establish which endo- and ecto-parasites and bacterial agents were being carried by non-indigenous rodents at this interface. Seventy non-indigenous rodents were trapped [Mus musculus (52), Rattus rattus (17) and Rattus norvegicus (1)], euthanized and sampled on four properties adjacent to the WNP in July 2012. Organ pools were screened by culture for Salmonella, Leptospira and Brucella species, real-time PCR for Coxiella burnetii and conventional PCR for Leptospira. Collected ecto- and endo-parasites were identified using morphological criteria. The percentage of rodents carrying pathogens were Leptospira (40%), Salmonella choleraesuis ssp. arizonae (14.29%), ectoparasites (21.42%) and endoparasites (87%). Brucella and C. burnetii were not identified, and it was concluded that their prevalences were below 12%. Two rodent-specific helminthic species, namely Syphacia obvelata (2.86%) and Nippostrongylus brasiliensis (85.71%), were identified. The most prevalent ectoparasites belonged to Laelaps spp. (41.17%) followed by Polyplax spp. (23.53%), Hoplopleura spp. (17.65%), Ixodes holocyclus (17.64%) and Stephanocircus harrisoni (5.88%), respectively. These ectoparasites, except S. harrisoni, are known to transmit zoonotic pathogens such as Rickettsia spp. from rat to rat and could be transmitted to humans by other arthropods that bite humans. The high prevalence of pathogenic Leptospira species is of significant public health concern. This is the first known study of zoonotic agents carried by non-indigenous rodents living in the Australian wet-tropical forest interface.

Keywords: Northern Queensland; diseases; parasites; rodent; wet tropics.