A rich body of work has reported levels of infection with Toxocara species in definitive hosts, and the frequency of eggs in the environment, in many different regions and situations. These have greatly increased our understanding of the relationship between egg excretion from companion and wild animals and the risk of human infection by inadvertent ingestion of eggs from soil and other environmental reservoirs. Nevertheless, it is difficult to compare studies directly because of vagaries in sampling and laboratory methods, a preponderance of prevalence rather than abundance data, and a lack of studies that systematically sample different sympatric definitive host populations. Such comparisons could be instructive, for example to determine the relative contributions of different definitive host populations and categories to environmental contamination in specified areas, and hence guide priorities for control. In this article we use estimates of host density and infection levels in the city of Bristol, UK, as a case study to evaluate the relative contribution of sympatric cats, dogs and foxes to overall environmental contamination with eggs. Results suggest that dogs, especially those less than 12 weeks of age, dominate total egg output, but that this is modified by degree of access to public areas and removal of faeces, such that foxes could take over as the primary source of eggs. Results and conclusions are likely to differ among specific locations. The general aim is to show how an improved quantitative framework for epidemiological studies of Toxocara spp. egg contamination can help to advance understanding and the effectiveness of control strategies in future.
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