Potential public health benefits from cat eradications on islands

by Luz A. de Wit, Donald A. Croll, Bernie Tershy, Maria Dolores Correa, Hector Luna-Pasten, Paulo Quadri, A. Marm Kilpatrick

Cats (Felis catus) are reservoirs of several pathogens that affect humans, including Toxoplasma gondii. Infection of pregnant women with T. gondii can cause ocular and neurological lesions in newborns, and congenital toxoplasmosis has been associated with schizophrenia, epilepsy, movement disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease. We compared seroprevalence of T. gondii and risk factors in people on seven islands in Mexico with and without introduced cats to determine the effect of cat eradication and cat density on exposure to T. gondii. Seroprevalence was zero on an island that never had cats and 1.8% on an island where cats were eradicated in 2000. Seroprevalence was significantly higher (12–26%) on the five islands with cats, yet it did not increase across a five-fold range of cat density. Having cats near households, being male and spending time on the mainland were significant risk factors for T. gondii seroprevalence among individuals, whereas eating shellfish was protective. Our results suggest that cats are an important source of T. gondii on islands, and eradicating, but not controlling, introduced cats from islands could benefit human health.

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