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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2009 Oct;81(4):718-24. doi: 10.4269/ajtmh.2009.09-0104.

Flea diversity and infestation prevalence on rodents in a plague-endemic region of Uganda.

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  • 1Uganda Virus Research Institute, Entebbe, Uganda.


In Uganda, the West Nile region is the primary epidemiologic focus for plague. The aims of this study were to 1) describe flea-host associations within a plague-endemic region of Uganda, 2) compare flea loads between villages with or without a history of reported human plague cases and between sampling periods, and 3) determine vector loads on small mammal hosts in domestic, peridomestic, and sylvatic settings. We report that the roof rat, Rattus rattus, is the most common rodent collected in human dwellings in each of the 10 villages within the two districts sampled. These rats were commonly infested with efficient Y. pestis vectors, Xenopsylla cheopis and X. brasiliensis in Arua and Nebbi districts, respectively. In peridomestic and sylvatic areas in both districts, the Nile rat, Arvicanthus niloticus, was the most abundant rodent and hosted the highest diversity of flea species. When significant temporal differences in flea loads were detected, they were typically lower during the dry month of January. We did not detect any significant differences in small mammal abundance or flea loads between villages with our without a history of human plague, indicating that conditions during inter-epizootic periods are similar between these areas. Future studies are needed to determine whether flea abundance or species composition changes during epizootics when humans are most at risk of exposure.

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