Distribution of Angiostrongylus vasorum and its gastropod intermediate hosts along the rural-urban gradient in two cities in the United Kingdom, using real time PCR

Nor Azlina A Aziz*, Elizabeth Daly, Simon Allen, Ben Rowson, Carolyn Greig, Dan Forman, Eric R. Morgan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
225 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Angiostrongylus vasorum is a highly pathogenic metastrongylid nematode affecting dogs, which uses gastropod molluscs as intermediate hosts. The geographical distribution of the parasite appears to be heterogeneous or patchy and understanding of the factors underlying this heterogeneity is limited. In this study, we compared the species of gastropod present and the prevalence of A. vasorum along a rural-urban gradient in two cities in the south-west United Kingdom. Methods: The study was conducted in Swansea in south Wales (a known endemic hotspot for A. vasorum) and Bristol in south-west England (where reported cases are rare). In each location, slugs were sampled from nine sites across three broad habitat types (urban, suburban and rural). A total of 180 slugs were collected in Swansea in autumn 2012 and 338 in Bristol in summer 2014. A 10 mg sample of foot tissue was tested for the presence of A. vasorum by amplification of the second internal transcribed spacer (ITS-2) using a previously validated real-time PCR assay. Results: There was a significant difference in the prevalence of A. vasorum in slugs between cities: 29.4 % in Swansea and 0.3 % in Bristol. In Swansea, prevalence was higher in suburban than in rural and urban areas. Comparing the sampled slug fauna, Arion rufus was found in greater numbers in Swansea than Bristol, and was commonly infected (prevalence 41 %). This, alongside the timing of slug collections in summer rather than autumn, could explain low infection prevalence in the Bristol sample. In the absence of Ar. rufus as a preferred host for A. vasorum, Ar. flagellus and Limacus maculatus appear to act as versatile hosts that are present in suburban and urban areas in Swansea (prevalence in Ar. flagellus 33 %; in L. maculatus 44 %) and in Bristol (prevalence in Ar. flagellus 0.9 %). These slug species might provide A. vasorum with an alternative vehicle to reach the final host, when the main host Ar. rufus is scarce or absent. Conclusion: We conclude that the composition of the slug fauna varies spatially, and that this could help explain patchiness in the prevalence of A. vasorum. A suburban peak was found in the prevalence of infection in intermediate hosts, perhaps explained by a higher density of competent intermediate and/or definitive hosts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2016


  • Angiostrongylosis
  • Distribution
  • Epidemiology
  • Gastropods
  • Suburban


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