Context. Peri-urban wild dogs are known to reside within high-risk and densely populated regions and are capable of harbouring a variety of zoonotic pathogens. Despite recognising the potential of peri-urban wild dogs to carry zoonotic pathogens, limited prevalence data are currently available to assist in understanding the potential risks that peri-urban wild dogs pose within developed communities.
Aims. The aim of the present research was to establish the current status of key zoonotic and economically significant pathogens in peri-urban wild dogs.
Methods. Two hundred and one peri-urban wild dog cadavers were collected from south-eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales. In addition, whole blood, serum and faecal samples were also collected. Pathogens were identified through several morphological, microbiological and molecular methods.
Key results. Helminth parasites were detected within 79.6% of peri-urban wild dogs; Echinococcus granulosus was the most common pathogen, with adult worms being detected within 50.7 ± 6.9% of intestines, followed by Spirometra erinacei (36.6 ± 6.4%); hookworms, including Ancylostoma caninum and Uncinaria stenocephala (28.8 ± 7.1%); Toxocara canis (5.4 ± 3.1%) and Taenia spp., including T. serialis and T. pisiformis (4.5 ± 2.8%). Bacterial pathogens detected included methicillin-resistant Escherichia coli (20.0 ± 10.1%), Salmonella spp. (3.7 ± 4.0%) and methicillin-sensitive Staphylococcus aureus (3.3 ± 2.7%).
Conclusions. The present study is the most comprehensive investigation of zoonotic pathogen carriage in peri-urban wild dogs in Australia. Parasitic infections in peri-urban wild dogs are common, with tapeworms representing the majority of intestinal pathogens. Important zoonotic bacterial pathogens are carried by peri-urban wild dogs, although at a much lower prevalence than are parasites.
Implications. The presence of these pathogens in free-ranging peri-urban dog populations suggests a strong potential for public health risk, most notably from E. granulosus. These data are inherently important as baseline information, which is essential to guide risk-based management of peri-urban wild dog impacts.