Human alveolar echinococcosis, caused by the tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis, is the most pathogenic helminthic zoonosis in the temperate and arctic region of Europe. Between November 2008 and February 2009, 840 red fox (Vulpes vulpes) carcasses, were randomly collected from the whole Hungarian territory. The intestinal mucosa from all the foxes was tested by sedimentation and counting technique. E. multilocularis adult worms were detected in foxes of 16 out of the 19 Hungarian counties and in the suburban areas of the capital, Budapest. The prevalence and abundance of infection was significantly (P<0.001) higher in the north-western half (16.2%, CI. =14.5-17.9; m±. SE. =165.5 ± 112.4) than in the south-eastern half of the country (4.2%, CI. =3.2-5.2; m±. SE. =3.6 ± 2.1). The highest prevalence (26.6%, CI. =22.5-30.8%) and abundance (m±. SE. =614.2 ± 469.3) was observed in the Northern Mountain Region bordering Slovakia. The multi-locus microsatellite analysis of 81 worms showed the presence of four out of the five main European profiles. The H profile was the most common profile (55.5%) with nine genotypes, followed by the G (18.5%) with two genotypes, E (13.6%) with one genotype and D (12.4%) with two genotypes. The genetic distance was not statistically correlated with the geographical distance of the samples, supporting the hypothesis that the geographical distance is only a minor factor among those involved in the genetic distribution of this parasite in Europe. These data indicate that Hungary should be considered as a peripheral area of a single European focus, where the dispersal movement of foxes resulted in the spreading of the parasite from one county to another within a time period short enough to avoid a substantial genetic drift.
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