Caring for dogs to reduce spread of parasite eggs harmful to humans

Feb 05, 2013

The UK dog population is estimated to be around ten million, with dogs producing approximately 1,000 tonnes of excrement each day. New research has shown that dogs act as a major source of the parasite egg, Toxocara, which can potentially contaminate the public environment and infect humans.

The aim of the study, led by Dr Eric Morgan and colleagues from the University of Bristol's School of and published in the international scientific journal, , was to identify where efforts to control the parasite should focus, in the interests of protecting public health.

The , called Toxocara, is a rare cause of disease in humans, responsible for occasional cases of abdominal pain, loss of sight, and potentially asthma and epilepsy. The link with dogs, host to the adult parasites, has long been accepted, but this study has shown that in spite of decades of efforts through worming and control of dog fouling, the parasite remains common in our pets and on our streets.

For the first time, relative contributions of dogs and the other hosts of the parasites, cats and foxes, are estimated, as well as total egg output, using data from Bristol. With the help of additional information from a previous study led by Vet School colleague, Dr Jane Murray, the researchers estimate that nearly four tonnes of dog waste are produced in Bristol each day and nearly 1,000 tonnes nationally.

Given that each adult female worm can lay 12,500 eggs or more per day, this equates to around 3.7 billion eggs shed per day within the city of Bristol, or a number close to the world's every two days.

Dr Eric Morgan, Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Parasitology and senior author of the paper, said: "These results are not all that surprising but they are likely to differ widely between places. We provided a method for estimating different sources of contamination with Toxocara eggs anywhere in the world. This will hopefully help locally appropriate control measures to be put in place. The data also provides a baseline against which future changes can be measured, as we currently lack any good evidence of how effective steps such as anti-fouling legislation are in reducing egg load and human disease."

Regular worming, especially of younger and continued efforts to promote removal of faeces from public areas by dog owners are key to reducing the reservoir of infection for humans. For the public, the message is clear: bag it, bin it, and worm your dog.

Explore further: Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

More information: Quantifying sources of environmental contamination with Toxocara spp. eggs, E. R. Morgan, D. Azam, K. Pegler, Veterinary Parasitology, available online 22 December 2012.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A nation of animal lovers?

Apr 03, 2012

A new study has estimated that over 260,000 cats and dogs entered the care of UK rescue organisations during 2009, the first full year since the onset of the UK recession.

Using 'dominance' to explain dog behavior is old hat

May 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new study shows how the behaviour of dogs has been misunderstood for generations: in fact using misplaced ideas about dog behaviour and training is likely to cause rather than cure unwanted ...

Recommended for you

Male monkey filmed caring for dying mate (w/ Video)

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —The incident was captured by Dr Bruna Bezerra and colleagues in the Atlantic Forest in the Northeast of Brazil.  Dr Bezerra is a Research Associate at the University of Bristol and a Professor ...

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

Apr 17, 2014

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

Apr 17, 2014

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

Apr 17, 2014

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Biologists help solve fungi mysteries

(Phys.org) —A new genetic analysis revealing the previously unknown biodiversity and distribution of thousands of fungi in North America might also reveal a previously underappreciated contributor to climate ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

UAE reports 12 new cases of MERS

Health authorities in the United Arab Emirates have announced 12 new cases of infection by the MERS coronavirus, but insisted the patients would be cured within two weeks.