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Domestic Cats Drive Spread of Potentially Deadly Toxoplasma Parasite to Wildlife

Cat in Backyard

New UBC analysis suggests free-roaming cats are possible to blame within the unfold of the possibly lethal Toxoplasma gondii parasite to wildlife in densely populated city areas.

The research—the primary to analyze so many wildlife species over a world scale—additionally highlights how wholesome ecosystems can defend towards these sorts of pathogens.

The researchers, led by UBC college of forestry adjunct professor Dr. Amy Wilson, examined 45,079 circumstances of toxoplasmosis in wild mammals—a illness that has been linked to nervous system problems, cancers, and different debilitating continual situations—utilizing knowledge from 202 world research.

They discovered wildlife dwelling close to dense city areas had been extra possible to be contaminated.

Dr. Amy Wilson. Credit score: Dr. Amy Wilson

“As rising human densities are related to elevated densities of home cats, our research means that free-roaming home cats—whether or not pets or feral cats—are the most definitely trigger of these infections,” says Dr. Wilson.

“This discovering is important as a result of by merely limiting free roaming of cats, we will scale back the affect of Toxoplasma on wildlife.”

One contaminated cat can excrete as many as 500 million Toxoplasma oocysts (or eggs) in simply two weeks. The oocysts can then stay for years in soil and water with the potential to infect any hen or mammal, together with people. Toxoplasmosis is especially harmful for pregnant folks.

If an animal is wholesome, the parasite stays dormant and infrequently causes direct hurt. Nonetheless, if an animal’s immune system is compromised, the parasite can set off sickness and doubtlessly loss of life.

The research additionally highlights the best way wholesome forests, streams, and different ecosystems can filter out harmful pathogens like Toxoplasma, notes Dr. Wilson.

“We all know that when wetlands are destroyed or streams are restricted, we’re extra possible to expertise runoff that carries extra pathogens into the waters the place wild animals drink or stay,” she says. “And when their habitats are wholesome, wildlife thrives and tends to be extra disease-resistant.”

Analysis outcomes like these remind us that every one ecosystems, forested or different, are intrinsically linked.

“There’s a rising recognition amongst forest science professionals and different teams that defending biodiversity and the ecosystems it helps is an environment friendly and economical method to decreasing illness switch between wildlife, home animals, and people. Conservation is absolutely preventative medication in motion,” says Dr. Wilson.

Reference: “Human density is related to the elevated prevalence of a generalist zoonotic parasite in mammalian wildlife” by Amy G. Wilson, Scott Wilson, Niloofar Alavi and David R. Lapen, 20 October 2021, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Organic Sciences.
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2021.1724

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