Assessing the role of dens in the spread, establishment and persistence of sarcoptic mange in an endangered canid

Diego Montecino-Latorre, Brian L. Cypher, Jaime L. Rudd, Deana L. Clifford, Jonna A Mazet, Janet E Foley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Sarcoptic mange is a skin disease caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei that can devastate populations of wild species. S. scabiei can survive off-host and remain infective for specific periods. In den-dwelling species, dislodged mites could be protected from the environmental conditions that impair their survival thus supporting pathogen transmission. To assess the potential role of dens in the spread, establishment, and persistence of sarcoptic mange in a population of hosts, we constructed an agent-based model of the endangered San Joaquin kit fox (SJKF; Vulpes macrotis mutica) population in Bakersfield, California, that explicitly considered the denning ecology and behavior of this species. We focused on this SJKF urban population because of their vulnerability and because a sarcoptic mange epizootic is currently ongoing. Further, SJKF is a social species that lives in family groups year-round and contact between individuals from different family groups is rare, but they will occupy the same dens intermittently. If mites remain infective in dens, they could support intra-family disease transmission via direct (den sharing) and indirect (contaminated den) contact, but also inter-family transmission if susceptible individuals from different families occupy contaminated dens. Simulations showed that den-associated transmission significantly increases the chances for the mite to spread, to establish and to persist. These findings hold for different within-den S. scabiei off-host survival periods assessed. Managers dealing with S. scabiei in this species as well as in other den-dwelling species should consider den-associated transmission as they could be targeted as part of the control strategies against this mite.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • Burrow
  • Den
  • Indirect transmission
  • San Joaquin Kit Fox
  • Sarcoptes scabiei
  • Sarcoptic mange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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