A Survey of Zoonotic Gastrointestinal Parasites Infecting Dogs and Children Living in Remote Aboriginal Communities of Australia's Western Desert Region
World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2007
Leon N. Warne; Ian D. Robertson; R.C. Andrew Thompson; Stan G. Fenwick
School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University
Perth, Western Australia


It has been speculated that the large populations of free-roaming dogs within Aboriginal communities of central Australia harbour zoonotic parasites, and contribute to high incidence of parasitic infections among local children.


To examine the prevalence of zoonotic gastrointestinal parasites infecting dogs and children, in three Aboriginal communities of Australia's Western Desert.


Faecal samples from dogs and children (<5 years) were screened for parasites by microscopy and cultured for Salmonella and Campylobacter. A nested-PCR technique was employed to genotype Giardia into human assemblages (A/B) and canine-specific assemblages (C/D). Dog owners were interviewed to identify risks for parasitic infection.


Gastrointestinal parasites were detected in both dogs (61.9%, n=77) and children (63.6%, n=11). Giardia being the most prevalent (dogs 44.4%; children 45.5%). Hymenolepis spp. (9.1%) and Isospora belli (9.1%) were also detected in children. Other parasites recovered from dogs were: Sarcocystis spp. (9.5%), Dipylidium caninum (3.2%), Taenia spp. (4.8%) Isospora canis (1.6%), Salmonella (9.1%). Giardia assemblages A (36.4%) and B (9.1%) were identified in children; assemblages C (33.3%) and D (15.9%) were only identified in dogs. Two dogs were infected with human-type assemblages A and B.


Dogs and children were commonly infected with gastrointestinal parasites. Giardia and Hymenolepis infection in children was indicative of poor living conditions and inadequate hygiene. Dogs posed a zoonotic-risk due to inadequate faecal disposal; unrestricted roaming; consuming raw meat/offal; and access to sylvatic reservoirs. In such conditions, findings of genetically identical Giardia in dogs and children supports the role of dogs as a potential source of human infection.

Speaker Information
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Leon Warne
Murdoch University
Western Australia, Australia

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