This study tested the hypotheses that ants (Formicidae) function as a first intermediate host of Mesocestoides (Cestoda: Mesocestoididae) and that deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) develop metacestode infections after ingesting cysticercoid or procercoid-infected ants. Field studies were conducted at an island fox (Urocyon littoralis littoralis) breeding facility located on San Miguel Island, California Channel Islands National Park, USA, where >40% of captive foxes were infected with adult Mesocestoides. Eight percent (8%) of deer mice at the fox pen site were infected with Mesocestoides metacestodes while none were infected at a distant site where foxes were absent (campground), thereby indicating the potential localized presence of a first intermediate host. To test whether ants from San Miguel Island contained Mesocestoides DNA, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based diagnostic assay was developed using nested primers that could detect a single hexacanth larva within pooled samples of ten ants. Ants (Lasius niger and Tapinoma sessile) collected near the fox breeding facility were tested using the nested-PCR assay. Seven of 223 pooled samples of L. niger (3.1%) and 2 of 84 pooled samples of T. sessile (2.4%) tested positive for Mesocestoides DNA, while none of the ants were positive at the campground site. Positive samples were sequenced and found to match DNA sequences from Mesocestoides obtained from island fox and deer mice. Finally, to determine whether ants function as a first intermediate host for Mesocestoides, colony-raised deer mice (n = 47) were fed L. niger (n = 3860) or T. sessile (n = 339) collected from the San Miguel Island fox breeding facility. No mouse became infected with Mesocestoides metacestodes after ingesting ants. While both L. niger and T. sessile from SMI were positive for Mesocestoides DNA, they were not infective to deer mice in the laboratory.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology