Project: The significance of rodent communities for the distribution of Echinococcus multilocularis: ecological and experimental investigations

The tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis (EM) is a highly pathogenic parasite that incidentally can cause a severe disease in humans (alveolar echinococcosis). The spread of this zoonotic parasite received much attention in European media and causes public uncertainty. The life cycle includes canids like foxes and dogs as definitive hosts, whereas different rodent species act as intermediate hosts. The parasite has a northern circumpolar distribution but with high prevalence also in parts of Eastern and Central Europe. There are apparently different opportunities for the spread of the parasite in different geographical regions of the EU. The objectives of this project are to: (1) experimentally investigate the infection dynamics, reproduction and pathology of EM in key species of wild rodents that are likely to become infected; (2) provide knowledge about which rodent communities are suitable for EM transmission in different regions of Europe; (3) produce a novel surveillance tool based on the identification of rodents that are at high risk of acquiring and transmitting EM and thereby providing a base for modelling the potential risk for human AE in different European areas. This project will create fundamental knowledge about the role of different rodents that may act as reservoirs for EM infection especially in low prevalence countries and border areas in endemic regions. This will increase the understanding of conditions required for the establishment and spread of EM in different geographical areas. The project will be conducted in five different work packages: (WP1) Investigation of the susceptibility to EM of different rodent species under laboratory conditions, including infection dynamics (eg. parasite growth and numbers of protoscoleces following experimental inoculation of different key rodent species with EM eggs) (WP2) Confirmation of parasite viability based on in vitro activation of established metacestodes (WP3) Intermediate host survival characteristics and pathology following experimental EM infection (WP4) Ecological investigations of the transmission potential of different rodents (e.g. abundance and species composition as well as predation rates by foxes and defecation behaviour of foxes in rodent habitats) (WP5) Overall coordination and compilation of knowledge concerning the rodents role in the transmission of EM and their contribution to the risk of human AE in different European regions. The proposal fits the aims of EMIDA in building on an already established and productive network of researchers. The consortium includes partners from universities, and governmental agencies from 5 EU countries with a common interest in solving problems involving transmission of zoonotic parasites to humans (including a world leading Finnish expert on rodent borne infections with his own funding). The proposal fits activity lines B and C of the present EMIDA call.

Acronym EMIRO
Duration 31/03/2015
Website visit project website
Network EMIDA
Call 2nd EMIDA Joint Call on Emerging and Major Infectious Diseases of Livestock

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Denmark
Federal Department of Home Affairs - Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office Switzerland
Finnish Forest Research Institute Finland
Lithuanian University of Health Science - Veterinary Academy Lithuania
Ministry of Agriculture And Forestry Finland
Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania Lithuania
Swedish National Veterinary Institute Sweden
Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning Sweden
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences Coordinator Sweden
University of Copenhagen Denmark
University of Zürich Switzerland