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The curse of the prey: Sarcoptes mite molecular analysis reveals potential prey-to-predator parasitic infestation in wild animals from Masai Mara, Kenya

AuthorsGakuya, Francis; Rossi, Luca; Ombui, Jackson; Maingi, Ndichu; Muchemi, Gerald; Ogara, William; Soriguer, Ramón C. ; Alasaad, Samer
Issue Date6-Oct-2011
PublisherBioMed Central
CitationParasites & Vectors. 06;4(1):193 (2011)
AbstractAbstract Background Recently, there have been attempts to understand the molecular epidemiology of Sarcoptes scabiei, to evaluate the gene flow between isolates of S. scabiei from different hosts and geographic regions. However, to our knowledge, a molecular study has not been carried out to assess the molecular diversity and gene flow of Sarcoptes mite in a predator/prey ecosystem. Results Our study revealed an absence of gene flow between the two herbivore (Thomson's gazelle and wildebeest)- and between the two carnivore (lion and cheetah)-derived Sarcoptes populations from Masai Mara (Kenya), which is in discrepancy with the host-taxon law described for wild animals in Europe. Lion- and wildebeest-derived Sarcoptes mite populations were similar yet different from the Thomson's gazelle-derived Sarcoptes population. This could be attributed to Sarcoptes cross-infestation from wildebeest ("favourite prey") of the lion, but not from Thomson's gazelle. The cheetah-derived Sarcoptes population had different subpopulations: one is cheetah-private, one similar to the wildebeest- and lion-derived Sarcoptes populations, and another similar to the Thomson's gazelle-derived Sarcoptes mite population, where both wildebeest and Thomson's gazelle are "favourite preys" for the cheetah. Conclusions In a predator/prey ecosystem, like Masai Mara in Kenya, it seems that Sarcoptes infestation in wild animals is prey-to-predator-wise, depending on the predator's "favourite prey". More studies on the lion and cheetah diet and behaviour could be of great help to clarify the addressed hypotheses. This study could have further ramification in the epidemiological studies and the monitoring protocols of the neglected Sarcoptes mite in predator/prey ecosystems.
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