Parasitic infections of brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) in urbanised environments and bushland in the greater Perth region, Western Australia

21 May 2018

Hillman, Alison; Lymbery, Alan; Elliot, Aileen; Ash, Amanda; Thompson, R. C. Andrew

Brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula) remain in many areas of Perth, Western Australia, despite urbanisation. However, there are no data available regarding parasitic infections in this species in this locale, despite the relevance to wildlife health, and to public health when considering anthropozoonoses (infections that can spread from humans to animals, and vice versa). Further, though urbanisation is speculated to entail changes to wildlife infection epidemiology, there are few data investigating this hypothesis in marsupial populations in urbanised environments in Australia. This study aimed to measure T. gondii seroprevalence, gastrointestinal parasite prevalences, and macroscopic ectoparasite prevalences and intensities, in brushtail possums in the greater Perth region. It also aimed to compare infection prevalences between brushtail possum trapped in urbanised environments and bushland. As part of a cross-sectional study, 18 brushtail possums were trapped and sampled in bushland, 15 possums were trapped and sampled in urbanised environments, and 23 possum carcasses were obtained from a wildlife hospital, in the greater Perth region. This study provides parasite prevalence data, new host records for the ectoparasites Pygiopsylla tunneyi and Liponyssoides sp., and a new location record for the ectoparasite Haemaphysalis bremneri. Urbanised environments were inversely associated with prevalence of tick (Family Ixodidae) infections, and more specifically Amblyomma spp. infections. This study found no evidence that the Perth brushtail possum population is a substantial reservoir of anthropozoonotic parasites, though larger studies are required to confirm these findings.