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Implications of Zoonotic and Vector-Borne Parasites to Free-Roaming Cats in Central Spain

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Implications of Zoonotic and Vector-Borne Parasites to Free-Roaming Cats in Central Spain

A Montoya et al. Vet Parasitol.

Abstract

Cats are definitive hosts and reservoirs for several parasites, some of which are responsible for serious zoonotic diseases. We conducted a case-control study of data from a trap-neuter-return (TNR) programme (years 2014-2017) designed to examine the prevalence of zoonotic parasites in free-roaming cats living in urban areas of central Spain. In the animal population tested (n = 263), we detected a 29.2% prevalence of endoparasites, including high rates of cestodes (12.9%) and Toxocara cati (11.7%). While faecal samples showed no Toxoplasma gondii oocysts, the seroprevalence of T. gondii infection was 24.2%. Antibodies to Leishmania infantum were detected in 4.8% of the animals, though all skin and blood samples analyzed were PCR negative for this parasite. Ectoparasites (ticks and fleas) were found in 4.6% of the cat population, and 10.6% of the cats were detected with Otodectes cynotis. Finally, 6.3% and 7.9% cats tested positive for feline leukaemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus, respectively. Our study provides useful information for animal-welfare and public-health, as the parasites detected can affect native wild animals through predation, competition and disease transmission. Our detection of zoonotic parasites such as L. infantum, T. gondii, T. cati, Giardia duodenalis and several ectoparasites prompts an urgent need for health control measures in stray cats.

Keywords: Cat; Free-roaming; Intestinal parasites; Leishmania infantum; Toxoplasma gondii; Zoonoses.

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