Navigating parasite webs and parasite flow: Emerging and re-emerging parasitic zoonoses of wildlife origin

By February 11, 2015Workgroup 1

Author(s): Lydden Polley

Publication: International Journal for Parasitology

Publication Date: 2005

Abstract: Wildlife are now recognised as an important source of emerging human pathogens, including parasites. This paper discusses the linkages between wildlife, people, zoonotic parasites and the ecosystems in which they co-exist, revisits definitions for ‘emerging’ and ‘re-emerging’, and lists zoonotic parasites that can be acquired from wildlife including, for some, estimates of the associated global human health burdens. The paper also introduces the concepts of ‘parasite webs’ and ‘parasite flow’, provides a context for parasites, relative to other infectious agents, as causes of emerging human disease, and discusses drivers of disease emergence and re-emergence, especially changes in biodiversity and climate. Angiostrongylus cantonensis in the Caribbean and the southern United States, Baylisascaris procyonis in California and Georgia, Plasmodium knowlesi in Sarawak, Malaysia, Human African Trypanosomiasis, Sarcoptes scabiei in carnivores, and Cryptosporidium, Giardia and Toxoplasma in marine ecosystems are presented as examples of wildlife-derived zoonotic parasites of particular recent interest. An ecological approach to disease is promoted, as is a need for an increased profile for this approach in undergraduate and graduate education in the health sciences. Synergy among scientists and disciplines is identified as critical for the study of parasites and parasitic disease in wildlife populations. Recent advances in techniques for the investigation of parasite fauna of wildlife are presented and monitoring and surveillance systems for wildlife disease are discussed. Some of the limitations inherent in predictions for the emergence and re-emergence of infection and disease associated with zoonotic parasites of wildlife are identified. The importance of public awareness and public education in the prevention and control of emerging and re-emerging zoonotic infection and disease are emphasised. Finally, some thoughts for the future are presented.

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