Rodent control to fight plague: field assessment of methods based on rat density reduction

Soanandrasana Rahelinirina* (Corresponding Author), Kathryn Scobie, Beza Ramasindrazana, Voahangy Andrianaivoarimanana, Fanohinjanaharinirina Rasoamalala, Lovasoa Nomena Randriantseheno, Jerry Sylvio Rakotoniaina, Olivier Gorgé, Xavier Lambin, Eric Valade, Sandra Telfer, Minoarisoa Rajerison

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
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Rodents represent a serious threat to food security and public health. The extent to which rodent control can mitigate the risk from rodent-borne disease depends on both the effectiveness of control in reducing rodent abundance and the impact on disease epidemiology. Focusing on a plague-endemic region of Madagascar, this study compared the effectiveness of 3 methods: live-traps, snap-traps, and rodenticides. Control interventions were implemented inside houses between May and October 2019. Tracking tiles monitored rodent abundance. Rodent fleas, the vector involved in plague transmission, were collected. Rodent populations consisted of Rattus rattus and Mus musculus. In terms of trap success, we found that our live-trap regime was more effective than snap-traps. While all 3 control strategies appeared to reduce in-house rodent activity in the short term, we found no evidence of a longer-term effect, with in-house rodent abundance in treated sites comparable to non-treatment sites by the following month. Endemic flea, Synopsyllus fonquerniei, is a key plague vector usually found on rats living outdoors. Although we found no evidence that its abundance inside houses increased following control, this may have been due to a lack of power caused by significant variation in S. fonquerniei abundance. The presence of S. fonquerniei in houses was more likely when S. fonquerniei abundance on outdoor rats was higher, which in turn correlated with high rat abundance. Our results emphasize that control strategies need to consider this connectivity between in-house rat-flea populations and the outdoor populations, and any potential consequences for plague transmission.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)868-885
Number of pages18
JournalIntegrative zoology
Issue number6
Early online date30 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Research funding: Directorate General for International Relations and Strategy. Grant Number: 2018‐SB‐024‐18SSEOC049‐PMG7‐SSA5‐IPMMADAGASCAR

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: We are especially grateful to the health authorities and the population in Miantso and Ankazobe for allowing us to do this work and being so helpful. We thank the staff of the Plague Unit, Institut Pasteur de Madagascar, for helping with the field and laboratory work, especially Alain Berthin Rakotoarisoa and Andrianiaina Parfait Rakotonindrainy. This work was supported by a Directorate General for International Relations and Strategy grant (2018‐SB‐024‐18SSEOC049‐PMG7‐SSA5‐IPMMADAGASCAR) covering the project “Développement de contre‐mesures médicales à la peste à Madagascar” with scientific support of IRBA (French Armed Forces Biomedical Research Institute), within the framework of French MoD's involvement in G7 Global partnership. The French Agency for International Technical Expertise (AFETI) ensures the proper financial execution of the project and contributes to the implementation of cooperation actions under the control of the Directorate General for International Relations and Strategy. This research was also funded in part by the Wellcome Trust [095171/Z/10/Z] and the Institut Pasteur de Madagascar. For the purpose of Open Access, the authors have applied a CC BY public copyright license to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising from this submission. K.S. was supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) under the EastBio DTP (grant number BB/M010996/1).


  • fleas
  • Madagascar
  • plague
  • rodents
  • surveillance


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