University of Tasmania
149667 - Environmental suitability of bare-nosed wombat burrows for Sarcoptes scabiei.pdf (4.58 MB)

Environmental suitability of bare-nosed wombat burrows for Sarcoptes scabiei

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 07:03 authored by Browne, E, Driessen, MM, Ross, R, Michael RoachMichael Roach, Scott CarverScott Carver
Some of the most important pathogens affecting wildlife are transmitted indirectly via the environment. Yet the environmental stages of pathogens are often poorly understood, relative to infection in the host, making this an important research frontier. Sarcoptic mange is a globally widespread disease caused by the parasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei. The bare-nosed wombat (Vombatus ursinus) is particularly susceptible, and their solitary nature and overlapping use of burrows strongly indicate the importance of environmental transmission. However, due to the challenge of accessing and monitoring within wombat burrows, there has been limited research into their suitability for off-host mite survival and environmental transmission (i.e., to serve as a fomite). We created a model using published laboratory data to predict mite survival times based on temperature and humidity. We then implemented innovative technologies (ground-penetrating radar and a tele-operated robotic vehicle) to map and access wombat burrows to record temperature and relative humidity. We found that the stable conditions within burrows were conducive for off-host survival of S. scabiei, particularly in winter (estimated mite survival of 16.41 ± 0.34 days) and less so in warmer and drier months (summer estimated survival of 5.96 ± 0.37 days). We also compared two areas with higher and lower average mange prevalence in wombats (13.35% and 4.65%, respectively), finding estimated mite survival was slightly higher in the low prevalence area (10.10 and 12.12 days, respectively), contrary to our expectations, suggesting other factors are also important for population prevalence. Our study is the first to demonstrate the suitability of the bare-nosed wombat burrow for off-host mite survival and environmental transmission. Our findings have implications for understanding observed patterns of mange, disease dynamics and disease management for not only bare-nosed wombats, but also other burrow or den-obligate species exposed to S. scabiei via environmental transmission.


Australian Research Council

Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania

Hydro Tasmania

MSD Animal Health

Water NSW


Publication title

International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife








School of Natural Sciences


Elsevier Ltd

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2021 The Authors Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in terrestrial environments

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