Bobcats more likely to get diseases from urban areas, scientists say

October 5, 2012
Bobcat on the Uncompahgre Plateau on Colorado's Western Slope.

(—Bobcats are more likely to pick up parasites such as Giardia when they're closer to urban areas with a heavier human impact on the environment, according to a new study by Colorado State University wildlife and veterinary scientists.

The paper appears in the September 2012 issue of the . The research was funded by the National Science Foundation Ecology of Infectious Disease Program.

Researchers collected in Ventura County, Calif., and along Colorado's Front Range and Western Slope, and tested them for Toxoplasma gondii, Giardia duodenalis and Cryptosporidium spp.– all parasites that cause health issues in people and wildlife, with the latter two causing diarrhea and other .

Findings revealed that near urban areas of Boulder, Colo., and Los Angeles were more likely to have those parasites than bobcats living in more rural areas in Colorado.

Faculty and students collaborating on the project represented Warner College of Natural Resources and the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State.

"We found support for our hypothesis that bobcats become exposed to and shed zoonotic parasites in fecal material around human-occupied landscapes," said Kevin Crooks, professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and . Among his co-authors were Dr. Sue VandeWoude, professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, and Dr. Mike Lappin from the Department of Clinical Sciences.

"Bobcats seem to have acquired Giardia from humans rather than the other way around – they were probably exposed to the water supply around cities," VandeWoude said. "Giardia can infect people and may cause ."

The study also found a high incidence of bobcat exposure to the , but did not find evidence animals were shedding the disease. This parasite can infect humans and causes mild to minimal disease in healthy people, but can cause complications for infants and people with a compromised immune system. Cats only spread toxoplasma in their feces for a few weeks following infection with the parasite. This study suggests the lifecycle of the parasite in bobcats is similar to domestic cats.

There was no evidence that the bobcats shedding these parasites were actually sick, researchers said.

The paper is a follow-up by the same scientists who released a study in February showing that domestic cats, bobcats and pumas that live in the same area share diseases – and may bring them into family homes. The study provided evidence that domestic cats and wild cats that share the same outdoor areas in urban environments can also share diseases such as bartonellosis and toxoplasmosis, both of which can be spread from cats to people.

The earlier study looked at of California and Colorado and shows these diseases can spread through contact with shared habitat and how the diseases can be clustered due to urban development and major freeways that restrict animal movement.

Both studies involved collaboration with field biologists, federal and state agencies, animal shelters and other institutions.

Explore further: Indiana U scientists uncover potential key to better drugs to fight toxoplasmosis parasite

Related Stories

Toxoplasma gondii spreads in the habitat of the Iberian lynx

April 6, 2010

An international team led by researchers from the University of Cordoba (UCO) has analysed seroprevalence (antibodies to a disease) of Toxoplasma Gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis in many species, including humans. ...

Cats pass disease to wildlife, even in remote areas

May 12, 2011

Researchers tracking the spread of Toxoplasma gondii – a parasite that reproduces only in cats but sickens and kills many other animals – have found infected wildlife throughout a 1,500-acre (600-hectare) natural ...

Recommended for you

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

How cells in the developing ear 'practice' hearing

November 25, 2015

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular ...

How cells 'climb' to build fruit fly tracheas

November 25, 2015

Fruit fly windpipes are much more like human blood vessels than the entryway to human lungs. To create that intricate network, fly embryonic cells must sprout "fingers" and crawl into place. Now researchers at The Johns Hopkins ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (3) Oct 05, 2012
More expensive yet useless research by "scientists" having a vested financial interest in the (study) findings.

The only reason I read past the second line: "The research was funded by the National Science Foundation Ecology of Infectious Disease Program." was to see if AGW was mentioned. To their credit, it was not.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.