Tanzania Journal of Health Research

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Factors associated with flea infestation among the different rodent species in Mbulu and Karatu districts, northern Tanzania

Martin F. Haule, Eligius F. Lyamuya, Mecky I. Matee, Bukheti S. Kilonzo, Bernard M. Hang'ombe


Flea infection with the bacterium, Yersinia pestis is acquired from reservoirs which include several rodents and other small mammals.  In areas that are endemic of plague, reservoirs of Y. pestis and various flea vectors are responsible for perpetuating existence of the disease.  The objective of this cross sectional study was to investigate the magnitude and factors associated with flea infestation among different rodent species of northern Tanzania, where outbreaks of plague have been recently reported. House rodents were trapped with box traps, while field and forest rodents were trapped with Sherman live traps. Fleas were removed from the rodents by using shoe-shining brush and were identified to genus level. Among the captured rodents, Rattus rattus (26.5%), Lophuromys flavopunctatus (16.5%), Praomys delectorum (16.2%) and Mastomys natalensis (32.3%) were most abundant rodent species, accounting for 91% of all species. Altogether, 805 fleas belonging to nine species were collected from 61% of the captured rodents. The most common fleas were Xenopsylla spp.; Dinopsyllus spp and Ctenophthalmus spp. Fleas were found to be highly abundant in M. natalensis, R. rattus, P. delectorum and L. flavopunctatus. Most of rodents were heavily infested with various flea species. These flea species probably play an important role in the transmission of plague in these two districts. We conclude that rodent species was the most important risk factor associating with flea infestation among the rodent population. Therefore, measures for control and prevention of plague in this area should particularly target rodents associated with high intensity of flea infestation.
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