Open Access Research

Bovine fasciolosis at increasing altitudes: Parasitological and malacological sampling on the slopes of Mount Elgon, Uganda

Alison Howell1, Lawrence Mugisha23, Juliet Davies1, E James LaCourse1, Jennifer Claridge4, Diana JL Williams4, Louise Kelly-Hope1, Martha Betson1, Narcis B Kabatereine5 and J Russell Stothard1*

Author Affiliations

1 Disease Control Strategy Group, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Pembroke Place, Liverpool, L3 5QA, United Kingdom

2 College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources & Biosecurity, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda

3 Conservation & Ecosystem Health Alliance (CEHA), P.O. Box 34153, Kampala, Uganda

4 Veterinary Parasitology, Institute of Infection and Global Health, School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZJ, United Kingdom

5 Vector Control Division, Ministry of Health, Kampala, Uganda

For all author emails, please log on.

Parasites & Vectors 2012, 5:196  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-5-196

Published: 7 September 2012

Abstract

Background

To clarify the extent and putative transmission zone of bovine fasciolosis on the slopes of Mount Elgon, Uganda, conjoint parasitological and malacological surveys, inclusive of inspection of animals at slaughter, were undertaken at increasing altitudes.

Results

A total of 239 cattle were sampled across eight locations ranging in elevation from 1112-2072 m. Faecal material was examined for presence of Fasciola eggs and sera were tested by ELISA for antibodies against Fasciola antigens. Bolstering this, 38 cattle at slaughter from 2 abattoir sites at 1150 m and 1947 m were inspected; in addition, wild buffalo stool (n = 10) opportunistically picked within Mount Elgon National Park (MENP) at 3640 m was examined. By faecal egg detection, prevalence of Fasciola gigantica at low (<1500 m) and high (>1500 m) altitude sites was 43.7% (95% CI 35.4-52.2) and 1.1% (95% CI 0.0-6.0), respectively, while by ELISA was much higher, low altitude - 77.9% (95% CI 69.7-85.4) and high altitude - 64.5% (95% CI 51.3-76.3). The decline in prevalence with increasing altitude was corroborated by abattoir sampling. Thirty seven aquatic habitats, ranging from 1139-3937 m in altitude were inspected for freshwater snails, 12 of which were within MENP. At lower altitudes, Lymnaea (Radix) natalensis was common, and often abundant, but at higher altitudes became much rarer ceasing to be found above 1800 m. On the other hand, Lymnaea (Galba) truncatula was found only at altitudes above 3000 m and within MENP alone. The snail identifications were confirmed by DNA analysis of the ribosomal 18S gene.

Conclusions

Active infections of F. gigantica in cattle are common in lower altitude settings but appear to diminish with increasing elevation. This is likely due to a growing paucity of intermediate hosts, specifically populations of L. natalensis for which a natural boundary of 1800 m appeared. Although F. hepatica was not encountered, the presence of several populations of L. truncatula at elevations over 3000 m point towards a potential transmission zone within MENP should this parasite be introduced.