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The effect of protected areas on pathogen exposure in endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) populations


Infectious diseases impact African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), but the nature and magnitude of this threat likely varies among populations according to different factors, such as the presence and prevalence of pathogens and land-use characteristics. We systematically evaluated these factors to assist development of locally appropriate strategies to mitigate disease risk. Wild dogs from 16 sites representing five unconnected populations were examined for rabies virus, canine distemper virus (CDV), canine parvovirus, canine coronavirus, and Babesia spp. exposure. Analyses revealed widespread exposure to viral pathogens, but Babesia was never detected. Exposure to CDV was associated with unprotected and protected-unfenced areas where wild dogs likely have a high probability of domestic dog contact and, in the case of protected-unfenced areas, likely reside amongst high wildlife densities. Our findings also suggest that domestic dog contact may increase rabies and coronavirus exposure risk. Therefore, domestic dogs may be a source of CDV, rabies and coronavirus, while wildlife may also play an important role in CDV transmission dynamics. Relatively high parvovirus seroprevalence across land-use types suggests that it might persist in the absence of spillover from domestic dogs. Should intervention be needed to control pathogens in wild dogs, efforts to prevent rabies and coronavirus exposure might be directed at reducing infection in the presumed domestic dog reservoir through vaccination. If prevention of CDV and parvovirus infections were deemed a management necessity, control of disease in domestic dogs may be insufficient to reduce transmission risks, and vaccination of wild dogs themselves may be the optimal strategy.

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