Occurrence, prevalence, and explanatory environmental variables of Spirocerca vulpis infestation in the foxes of western Spain

  • M. Martín-Pérez
  • J.M. Lobo
  • J.E. Pérez-Martín
  • D. Bravo-Barriga
  • J. Galapero
  • E. FronteraEmail author
Helminthology - Original Paper


The main aim of this study was to not only establish the prevalence of the recently described Spirocerca vulpis parasite in the wild-life cycle of carnivores in western Spain but to also elaborate a model to explain the risk of infestation based on 16 topo-climatic and habitat variables. During the period from June 2016 to November 2017, 1644 carcasses of red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and another 105 wild mammals, legally hunted or killed in car accidents, were analyzed. Parasitic nodules of Spirocerca were found in 6% of the foxes, and the molecular analyses established a homology of our samples with the species S. vulpis. There were no differences in the occurrence of the infestation between sexes, but there were differences in terms of age, such that infestation was proportionally more frequent among young individuals. In terms of temporality, a higher percentage of positive cases was observed during the late-autumn and winter months, especially between December and February. This study provides new data on the factors that predispose S. vulpis infection in the red fox. Model results indicate that a spatial pattern exists in the occurrence and prevalence of this species in the studied area (higher probabilities to the west), and that this pattern seems to mainly be associated with topo-climatic variables.


Spirocerca vulpis Red fox Explanatory factors Dung beetles Topo-climatic factors Habitat factors 



This work would not be possible without the collaboration of the hunting preserves’ leadership who agreed to participate in the study. We want to thank Professors Donato Traversa (University of Teramo, Italy) and Antonio Frangipane di Regalbono (University of Padua, Italy) for their help in the molecular analysis. The authors would like to acknowledge the students of the Department of Animal Health, University of Extremadura, for their helpful assistance in processing these samples. This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies of the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

436_2019_6590_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (20 kb)
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal Health, Veterinary FacultyUniversity of ExtremaduraCáceresSpain
  2. 2.Department of Biogeography and Global ChangeMuseo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC)MadridSpain
  3. 3.Department of Animal Medicine, Veterinary FacultyUniversity of ExtremaduraCáceresSpain

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