Variable changes in nematode infection prevalence and intensity after Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus emerged in wild rabbits in Scotland and New Zealand

Alexander D. Hernandez (Lead / Corresponding author), Brian Boag, Roy Neilson, Naomi L. Forrester

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Abstract

The myxoma virus (a microparasite) reduced wild rabbit numbers worldwide when introduced in the 1950s, and is known to interact with co-infecting helminths (macroparasites) causing both increases and decreases in macroparasite population size. In the 1990s Rabbit Haemorrhagic Disease Virus (RHDV) infected rabbits and also significantly reduced rabbit numbers in several countries. However, not much is known about RHDV interactions with macroparasites. In this study, we compare prevalence and intensity of infection for three gastrointestinal nematode species (Trichostrongylus retortaeformis, Graphidium strigosum and Passalurus ambiguus) before and after RHDV spread across host populations in Scotland and New Zealand. During one common season, autumn, prevalence of T. retortaeformis was higher after RHDV spread in both locations, whereas it was lower for G. strigosum and P. ambiguus after RHDV arrived in New Zealand, but higher in Scotland. Meanwhile, intensity of infection for all species decreased after RHDV arrived in New Zealand, but increased in Scotland. The impact of RHDV on worm infections was generally similar across seasons in Scotland, and also similarities in seasonality between locations suggested effects on infection patterns in one season are likely similar year-round. The variable response by macroparasites to the arrival of a microparasite into Scottish and New Zealand rabbits may be due to differences in the environment they inhabit, in existing parasite community structure, and to some extent, in the relative magnitude of indirect effects. Specifically, our data suggest that bottom-up processes after the introduction of a more virulent strain of RHDV to New Zealand may affect macroparasite co-infections by reducing the availability of their shared common resource, the rabbits. Clearly, interactions between co-infecting micro- and macroparasites vary in host populations with different ecologies, and significantly impact parasite community structure in wildlife.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-195
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife
Volume7
Issue number2
Early online date17 May 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018

Keywords

  • Co-infection
  • Community ecology
  • European rabbit
  • Helminth
  • Macroparasite
  • Microparasite
  • RHDV
  • Virus
  • Within-host ecology

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