Ectoparasites and other epifaunistic arthropods of sympatric cotton mice and golden mice: comparisons and implications for vector-borne zoonotic diseases

J Parasitol. 2004 Dec;90(6):1293-7. doi: 10.1645/GE-333R.


Ectoparasite and epifaunistic arthropod biodiversity and infestation parameters were compared between 2 sympatric small rodent species, the cotton mouse (Peromyscus gossypinus (Le Conte)) and golden mouse (Ochrotomys nuttalli (Harlan)), in southern Georgia from 1992 to 2003. Because the cotton mouse is known to be a reservoir of more vector-borne zoonotic pathogens than the golden mouse, we hypothesized that it would be parasitized by more ectoparasites that are known to be vectors of these pathogens. Cotton mice (n = 202) were parasitized by 19 species of arthropods, whereas golden mice (n = 46) were parasitized by 12 species. Eleven species of arthropods were recovered from both host species, whereas 7 were recorded only from cotton mice, and 1 species only from golden mice. Infestation prevalences (percent of mice parasitized) were significantly higher for 1 species of arthropod (the tropical rat mite Ornithonyssus bacoti (Hirst)) infesting cotton mice and for 4 species (the flea Peromyscopsylla scotti Fox and the mites Glycyphagus hypudaei Koch, Androlaelaps casalis (Berlese), and Androlaelaps fahrenholzi (Berlese)) infesting golden mice. Mean intensities (mean per infested mouse) were significantly higher for 2 species (the flea Orchopeas leucopus (Baker) and the blacklegged tick Ixodes scapularis Say) infesting cotton mice and for 2 species (G. hypudaei and A. fahrenholzi) infesting golden mice. Ectoparasites that are known to be vectors of zoonotic pathogens were significantly more common on cotton mice than on golden mice. These ectoparasites included the rhopalopsyllid flea Polygenis gwyni (Fox), a vector of the agent of murine typhus; I. scapularis, the principal vector of the agents of Lyme borreliosis, human granulocytic ehrlichiosis, and human babesiosis; and O. bacoti, a laboratory vector of several zoonotic pathogens. However, 2 species of ixodid ticks that can transmit zoonotic pathogens were recovered from both host species. These were the American dog tick Dermacentor variabilis (Say), the principal vector of the agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in eastern North America, and Ixodes minor Neumann, an enzootic vector of the agent of Lyme borreliosis. Overall, the cotton mouse was parasitized by significantly more ectoparasites that are known to be vectors of zoonotic pathogens than was the golden mouse. These data support the hypothesis that the cotton mouse has greater epidemiological importance for zoonotic vector-borne pathogen transmission than does the golden mouse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthropods / classification*
  • Biodiversity
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Disease Vectors
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / epidemiology
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / parasitology
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / transmission
  • Ectoparasitic Infestations / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Georgia
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muridae / parasitology*
  • Peromyscus / parasitology*
  • Prevalence
  • Rodent Diseases / epidemiology
  • Rodent Diseases / parasitology*
  • Rodent Diseases / transmission
  • Zoonoses / parasitology*
  • Zoonoses / transmission