Pet dogs and cats play an important role in the transmission of zoonotic helminths worldwide. This review discusses factors contributing to the expanding geographic range of this species in Europe. The authors suggest that the spread of zoonotic helminths is multifactorial and mainly due to human activities. Urban recreational areas are increasingly constructed in close proximity to natural ecosystems, providing wildlife species new habitats where they will frequently encounter humans and domestic animals. Both Echinococcus and Toxocara species are primarily transmitted to humans through ingestion of eggs from contaminated soil and produce.

Recent work has demonstrated that direct contact with contaminated dog fur can also be a source of infection for T canis, although direct contact with infected dogs and cats is not usually considered a risk. The authors point out that environmental contamination with Echinococcus eggs is highest in border zones between urban and rural areas where wild canid and rodent populations are high, and pets or humans entering these areas are at risk for infection.

Commentary: Although this review focuses on Europe, the information is important for the US as well because both Echinococcus and Toxocara are endemic in North America. Echinococcus organisms are found primarily in the north-central region from Montana to Ohio, where the prevalence in wild canids can be as high as 50%. Toxocara organisms are more widespread, however, infecting nearly 14% of the continental US. Control of zoonotic pathogens such as Echinococcus and Toxocara species requires a large cooperative effort between multiple agencies. The One Health Initiative seeks to connect human medicine, veterinary medicine, and public health professionals to promote the well-being of all species through shared educational opportunities, disease surveillance, and communication. Routine anthelminthic treatment for pet animals, control of stray dog and wild canid populations, prevention or cleanup of feces in recreational areas, and improved public education are all necessary measures in the control of zoonotic helminth infections.—Carly Jordan, PhD

Role of pet dogs and cats in the transmission of helminthic zoonoses in Europe, with a focus on echinococcosis and toxocariasis. Deplazes P, van Knapen F, Schweiger A, Overgaauw PAM. VET PARASITOL doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2011.07.014.