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Estimating Burdens of Neglected Tropical Zoonotic Diseases on Islands with Introduced Mammals

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  • 1 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, California.
  • | 2 Island Conservation, Santa Cruz, California.
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Many neglected tropical zoonotic pathogens are maintained by introduced mammals, and on islands the most common introduced species are rodents, cats, and dogs. Management of introduced mammals, including control or eradication of feral populations, which is frequently done for ecological restoration, could also reduce or eliminate the pathogens these animals carry. Understanding the burden of these zoonotic diseases is crucial for quantifying the potential public health benefits of introduced mammal management. However, epidemiological data are only available from a small subset of islands where these introduced mammals co-occur with people. We examined socioeconomic and climatic variables as predictors for disease burdens of angiostrongyliasis, leptospirosis, toxoplasmosis, toxocariasis, and rabies from 57 islands or island countries. We found strong correlates of disease burden for leptospirosis, Toxoplasma gondii infection, angiostrongyliasis, and toxocariasis with more than 50% of the variance explained, and an average of 57% (range = 32–95%) predictive accuracy on out-of-sample data. We used these relationships to provide estimates of leptospirosis incidence and T. gondii seroprevalence infection on islands where nonnative rodents and cats are present. These predicted estimates of disease burden could be used in an initial assessment of whether the costs of managing introduced mammal reservoirs might be less than the costs of perpetual treatment of these diseases on islands.

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Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Luz A. de Wit, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, 100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. E-mail: ldewit@ucsc.edu

Financial support: This research was supported by a joint scholarship for LDW from the National Council of Science and Technology of Mexico (CONACyT) and UC MEXUS, and the Complementary Scholarship from the Ministry of Education (SEP) of Mexico. This research was also supported by the National Science Foundation (grant number DEB-1115895) for AMK, and grants from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Authors' addresses: Luz A. de Wit, Donald A. Croll, Bernie Tershy, Kelly M. Newton, and A. Marm Kilpatrick, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, E-mails: ldewit@ucsc.edu, dcroll@ucsc.edu, tershy@ucsc.edu, newton@ucsc.edu, and akilpatr@ucsc.edu. Dena Spatz, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, and Island Conservation, Santa Cruz, CA, E-mail: dspatz@ucsc.edu. Nick D. Holmes, Island Conservation, Santa Cruz, CA, E-mail: nick.holmes@islandconservation.org.

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