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Influence of massive and long distance migration on parasite epidemiology: Lessons from the great wildebeest migration

AuthorsMijele, Domnic; Iwaki, Takashi; Chiyo, Patrick I.; Otiende, Moses; Obanda, Vincent; Rossi, Luca; Soriguer, Ramón C. ; Angelone-Alasaad, Samer
KeywordsSerengeti-Mara ecosystem
Oesophagostomum columbianum
Haemonchus placei
Calicophoron raja
Parasite competition
Moniezia expansa
Parasite predilection sites
Parasite load
Gastrointestinal helminthes
Issue Date23-Aug-2016
CitationEcoHealth 13: 708-719 (2016)
AbstractVery little is known about the influence of massive and long distance migration on parasite epidemiology. Migration can simultaneously minimize exposure to common parasites in their habitats and increase exposure to novel pathogens from new environments and habitats encountered during migration, while physiological stress during long distance movement can lead to immune suppression, which makes migrants vulnerable to parasites. In this paper, we investigated the diversity, prevalence, parasite load, co-infection patterns and predilection sites of adult gastrointestinal helminths in 130 migrating wildebeests and tested for their relation with animal age, sex and migration time (which also could indicate different migration routes), and compared them with the non-migratory wildebeest. Surprisingly, only four parasite species were found, Oesophagostomum columbianum, Haemonchus placei, Calicophoron raja and Moniezia expansa, which were lower than in non-migratory wildebeest reported in the literature. These parasites were generalists, infecting livestock, and suggests that wildebeest and livestock, because of their interaction during migration, have a cross-infection risk. There was a negative relation between parasites diversity, prevalence and intensity of infection, and host age, which suggests that wildebeests acquire protective immunity against these parasites as they get older. Prevalence and intensity of infection were higher among wildebeest crossing the Mara Bridge (early migrants) compared to those crossing the Serena (late migrants), which suggests that early migrants (or migrants originating from different areas) have varying infection intensities. The prevalence and intensity of infection were higher in males compared to females and may be due to ecological, behavioural, or physiological differences between males and females. Our findings compared to those of previous studies suggest that migration may provide a mechanism to minimize exposure of hosts to common parasites through migratory escape, but this result awaits examination of helminths epidemiology of non-migratory wildebeests from areas of migrant origins. The potential parasitic cross-infection between wildebeests and livestock is a real risk to be taken into account in the management of wildebeest migration corridors.
Publisher version (URL)https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-016-1156-2
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