Association of the occurrence of Brazilian spotted fever and Atlantic rain forest fragmentation in the São Paulo metropolitan region, Brazil

Claudia A Scinachi, Gabriela A C G Takeda, Luís Filipe Mucci, Adriano Pinter
Acta Tropica 2017, 166: 225-233
Brazilian Spotted Fever (BSF) is a zoonotic disease caused by the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii. In the São Paulo Metropolitan Region (SPMR) it is transmitted by Amblyomma aureolatum ticks. In this region, annual lethality of the disease can reach 80% and spatial occurrence depends on environmental factors and more particularly on the presence and interaction of domestic and wild carnivores as well as the presence and characteristics of the remnant Atlantic Rain Forest patches. This study analyzed the association between forest fragmentation and its influence on the risk of occurrence of the disease in the human population. Domestic dogs tested for R. rickettsii antibodies in nine different areas under the influence of different patterns of Rain Forest fragmented landscapes and human occupancy. Landscape metrics were obtained by analyzing satellite images and high-resolution orthophotos. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to determine among the different landscape variables the one that could best explain the data variance, and the results were tested against canine seroprevalence in order to address disease occurrence risk levels. From 270 canine samples, the seroprevalence ranged from 0 to 37%. PCA showed an inverse correlation between functionally connected large forest patches and the canine seroprevalence for R. rickettsii (p=0.030; Spearman's R=-0.683), while there was a positive correlation between forest border effect and canine seroprevalence (p=0.037; Spearman's R=- 0.909). The further attributed disease occurrence risk level supported the real spatial prevalence of the disease reported for the last eight years (p=0.023; Spearman's R=0.63). The results suggest an important relation of deforestation and fragmentation with the occurrence of BSF in the SPMR.

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