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1.  Comparative Proteomics Identifies Host Immune System Proteins Affected by Infection with Mycobacterium bovis 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2016;10(3):e0004541.
Mycobacteria of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) greatly impact human and animal health worldwide. The mycobacterial life cycle is complex, and the mechanisms resulting in pathogen infection and survival in host cells are not fully understood. Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa) are natural reservoir hosts for MTBC and a model for mycobacterial infection and tuberculosis (TB). In the wild boar TB model, mycobacterial infection affects the expression of innate and adaptive immune response genes in mandibular lymph nodes and oropharyngeal tonsils, and biomarkers have been proposed as correlates with resistance to natural infection. However, the mechanisms used by mycobacteria to manipulate host immune response are not fully characterized. Our hypothesis is that the immune system proteins under-represented in infected animals, when compared to uninfected controls, are used by mycobacteria to guarantee pathogen infection and transmission. To address this hypothesis, a comparative proteomics approach was used to compare host response between uninfected (TB-) and M. bovis-infected young (TB+) and adult animals with different infection status [TB lesions localized in the head (TB+) or affecting multiple organs (TB++)]. The results identified host immune system proteins that play an important role in host response to mycobacteria. Calcium binding protein A9, Heme peroxidase, Lactotransferrin, Cathelicidin and Peptidoglycan-recognition protein were under-represented in TB+ animals when compared to uninfected TB- controls, but protein levels were higher as infection progressed in TB++ animals when compared to TB- and/or TB+ adult wild boar. MHCI was the only protein over-represented in TB+ adult wild boar when compared to uninfected TB- controls. The results reported here suggest that M. bovis manipulates host immune response by reducing the production of immune system proteins. However, as infection progresses, wild boar immune response recovers to limit pathogen multiplication and promote survival, facilitating pathogen transmission.
Author Summary
Mycobacteria of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) are zoonotic pathogens representing a serious health problem for humans and animals worldwide. The life cycle of mycobacteria is complex, and the mechanisms resulting in pathogen infection and survival in host cells are not fully understood. Eurasian wild boar are natural reservoir hosts for MTBC and a model for mycobacterial infections and tuberculosis. The results of this study broaden our understanding of the molecular epidemiology of zoonotic tuberculosis and fill important gaps in knowledge of this topic. The results suggested that mycobacteria manipulate host immune response by reducing the production of immune system proteins. However, as infection progresses, wild boar immune response recovers to limit pathogen multiplication and promote survival, facilitating pathogen transmission. As previously reported in other obligate intracellular bacteria, host-mycobacteria interactions probably reflect a co-evolutionary process in which pathogens evolved mechanisms to subvert host response to establish infection, but hosts also evolved mechanisms to limit pathogen infection and promote survival. Subsequently, mycobacteria benefit from host survival by increasing the probability for transmission to continue their life cycle. These results provide relevant information to develop tools to evaluate risks for tuberculosis caused by MTBC and for disease control in humans and animals.
PMCID: PMC4814110  PMID: 27027307
2.  Widespread Environmental Contamination with Mycobacterium tuberculosis Complex Revealed by a Molecular Detection Protocol 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(11):e0142079.
Environmental contamination with Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC) has been considered crucial for bovine tuberculosis persistence in multi-host-pathogen systems. However, MTC contamination has been difficult to detect due to methodological issues. In an attempt to overcome this limitation we developed an improved protocol for the detection of MTC DNA. MTC DNA concentration was estimated by the Most Probable Number (MPN) method. Making use of this protocol we showed that MTC contamination is widespread in different types of environmental samples from the Iberian Peninsula, which supports indirect transmission as a contributing mechanism for the maintenance of bovine tuberculosis in this multi-host-pathogen system. The proportion of MTC DNA positive samples was higher in the bovine tuberculosis-infected than in presumed negative area (0.32 and 0.18, respectively). Detection varied with the type of environmental sample and was more frequent in sediment from dams and less frequent in water also from dams (0.22 and 0.05, respectively). The proportion of MTC-positive samples was significantly higher in spring (p<0.001), but MTC DNA concentration per sample was higher in autumn and lower in summer. The average MTC DNA concentration in positive samples was 0.82 MPN/g (CI95 0.70–0.98 MPN/g). We were further able to amplify a DNA sequence specific of Mycobacterium bovis/caprae in 4 environmental samples from the bTB-infected area.
PMCID: PMC4641585  PMID: 26561038
3.  Patterns of Mycobacterium tuberculosis-complex excretion and characterization of super-shedders in naturally-infected wild boar and red deer 
Veterinary Research  2015;46:129.
Wild boar (Sus scrofa) and red deer (Cervus elaphus) are the main maintenance hosts for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in continental Europe. Understanding Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC) excretion routes is crucial to define strategies to control bTB in free-ranging populations, nevertheless available information is scarce. Aiming at filling this gap, four different MTC excretion routes (oronasal, bronchial-alveolar, fecal and urinary) were investigated by molecular methods in naturally infected hunter-harvested wild boar and red deer. In addition MTC concentrations were estimated by the Most Probable Number method. MTC DNA was amplified in all types of excretion routes. MTC DNA was amplified in at least one excretion route from 83.0% (CI95 70.8–90.8) of wild ungulates with bTB-like lesions. Oronasal or bronchial-alveolar shedding were detected with higher frequency than fecal shedding (p < 0.001). The majority of shedders yielded MTC concentrations <103 CFU/g or mL. However, from those ungulates from which oronasal, bronchial-alveolar and fecal samples were available, 28.2% of wild boar (CI95 16.6–43.8) and 35.7% of red deer (CI95 16.3–61.2) yielded MTC concentrations >103 CFU/g or mL (referred here as super-shedders). Red deer have a significantly higher risk of being super-shedders compared to wild boar (OR = 11.8, CI95 2.3–60.2). The existence of super-shedders among the naturally infected population of wild boar and red deer is thus reported here for the first time and MTC DNA concentrations greater than the minimum infective doses were estimated in excretion samples from both species.
PMCID: PMC4628328  PMID: 26518244
4.  Tonsils of the Soft Palate Do Not Mediate the Response of Pigs to Oral Vaccination with Heat-Inactivated Mycobacterium bovis 
Mycobacterium bovis causes animal tuberculosis (TB) in cattle, humans, and other mammalian species, including pigs. The goal of this study was to experimentally assess the responses of pigs with and without a history of tonsillectomy to oral vaccination with heat-inactivated M. bovis and challenge with a virulent M. bovis field strain, to compare pig and wild boar responses using the same vaccination model as previously used in the Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa), to evaluate the use of several enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) and lateral flow tests for in vivo TB diagnosis in pigs, and to verify if these tests are influenced by oral vaccination with inactivated M. bovis. At necropsy, the lesion and culture scores were 20% to 43% higher in the controls than those in the vaccinated pigs. Massive M. bovis growth from thoracic tissue samples was observed in 4 out of 9 controls but in none of the 10 vaccinated pigs. No effect of the presence or absence of tonsils was observed on these scores, suggesting that tonsils are not involved in the protective response to this vaccine in pigs. The serum antibody levels increased significantly only after challenge. At necropsy, the estimated sensitivities of the ELISAs and dual path platform (DPP) assays ranged from 89% to 94%. In the oral mucosa, no differences in gene expression were observed in the control group between the pigs with and without tonsils. In the vaccinated group, the mRNA levels for chemokine (C-C motif) receptor 7 (CCR7), interferon beta (IFN-β), and methylmalonyl coenzyme A mutase (MUT) were higher in pigs with tonsils. Complement component 3 mRNA levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) increased with vaccination and decreased after M. bovis challenge. This information is relevant for pig production in regions that are endemic for M. bovis and for TB vaccine research.
PMCID: PMC4135923  PMID: 24920604
5.  Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Studying Spatial Abundance of Ungulates: Relevance to Spatial Epidemiology 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115608.
Complex ecological and epidemiological systems require multidisciplinary and innovative research. Low cost unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can provide information on the spatial pattern of hosts’ distribution and abundance, which is crucial as regards modelling the determinants of disease transmission and persistence on a fine spatial scale. In this context we have studied the spatial epidemiology of tuberculosis (TB) in the ungulate community of Doñana National Park (South-western Spain) by modelling species host (red deer, fallow deer and cattle) abundance at fine spatial scale. The use of UAS high-resolution images has allowed us to collect data to model the environmental determinants of host abundance, and in a further step to evaluate their relationships with the spatial risk of TB throughout the ungulate community. We discuss the ecological, epidemiological and logistic conditions under which UAS may contribute to study the wildlife/livestock sanitary interface, where the spatial aggregation of hosts becomes crucial. These findings are relevant for planning and implementing research, fundamentally when managing disease in multi-host systems, and focusing on risky areas. Therefore, managers should prioritize the implementation of control strategies to reduce disease of conservation, economic and social relevance.
PMCID: PMC4281124  PMID: 25551673
6.  Ecosystem Effects of Variant Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus, Iberian Peninsula 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(12):2166-2168.
PMCID: PMC4257825  PMID: 25417710
Rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus; calicivirus; European rabbit; Oryctolagus cuniculus; Iberian lynx; ecosystem; Iberian Peninsula; viruses
7.  Leporid immunoglobulin G shows evidence of strong selective pressure on the hinge and CH3 domains 
Open Biology  2014;4(9):140088.
Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is the predominant serum immunoglobulin and has the longest serum half-life of all the antibody classes. The European rabbit IgG has been of significant importance in immunological research, and is therefore well characterized. However, the IgG of other leporids has been disregarded. To evaluate the evolution of this gene in leporids, we sequenced the complete IGHG for six other genera: Bunolagus, Brachylagus, Lepus, Pentalagus, Romerolagus and Sylvilagus. The newly sequenced leporid IGHG gene has an organization and structure similar to that of the European rabbit IgG. A gradient in leporid IgG constant domain diversity was observed, with the CH1 being the most conserved and the CH3 the most variable domain. Positive selection was found to be acting on all constant domains, but with a greater incidence in the CH3 domain, where a cluster of three positively selected sites was identified. In the hinge region, only three polymorphic positions were observed. The same hinge length was observed for all leporids. Unlike the variation observed for the European rabbit, all 11 Lepus species studied share exactly the same hinge motif, suggesting its maintenance as a result of an advantageous structure or conformation.
PMCID: PMC4185434  PMID: 25185680
rabbit; IGHG; genetic diversity; immunoglobulins constant region; hinge region; evolution
8.  Isolation and characterization of Babesia pecorum sp. nov. from farmed red deer (Cervus elaphus) 
Veterinary Research  2014;45(1):78.
The diversity of Babesia species infecting cervids in parts of central and southern Spain was analyzed by collecting blood from farmed red deer (Cervus elaphus). Babesia sp. was isolated in vitro from two red deer herds in Cádiz and Ciudad Real. The number of Babesia sp. carriers differed between the two herds: 36/77 in Cádiz and 1/35 in Ciudad Real. Hyalomma lusitanicum was the most prevalent tick species identified on the Cádiz farm vegetation and on sampled animals, and is therefore a candidate vector. The molecular characteristics of 21 isolates were determined by complete (8 isolates) or partial (13 isolates) 18S rRNA gene sequencing. The sequences were highly similar (over 99.4% identity) and 6 sequence types were identified at the level of one herd only, demonstrating a rather high genetic diversity. They formed a monophyletic clade, and members of the three main sequence types shared a similar morphology and the same erythrocyte susceptibility pattern. This clade also included Babesia sp. Xinjiang isolated from sheep in China and Babesia sp. identified in giraffe in South Africa, with identities higher than 98.3% and statistically relevant phylogenetic support. None of the biological properties analyzed for both Babesia from red deer and Babesia sp. Xinjiang allowed their differentiation (ability to develop in vitro in erythrocytes from cattle and sheep, as well as in erythrocytes from different cervids, unsuccessful infection of calves). We propose the Babesia isolated from red deer as a new species named B. pecorum. Whether Babesia sp. Xinjiang and the Babesia characterized in South Africa belong to the same species is debated.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s13567-014-0078-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4158131  PMID: 25155988
9.  Assessment of an Oral Mycobacterium bovis BCG Vaccine and an Inactivated M. bovis Preparation for Wild Boar in Terms of Adverse Reactions, Vaccine Strain Survival, and Uptake by Nontarget Species 
Wildlife vaccination is increasingly being considered as an option for tuberculosis control. We combined data from laboratory trials and an ongoing field trial to assess the risk of an oral Mycobacterium bovis BCG vaccine and a prototype heat-inactivated Mycobacterium bovis preparation for Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa). We studied adverse reactions, BCG survival, BCG excretion, and bait uptake by nontarget species. No adverse reactions were observed after administration of BCG (n = 27) or inactivated M. bovis (n = 21). BCG was not found at necropsy (175 to 300 days postvaccination [n = 27]). No BCG excretion was detected in fecal samples (n = 162) or in urine or nasal, oral, or fecal swab samples at 258 days postvaccination (n = 29). In the field, we found no evidence of loss of BCG viability in baits collected after 36 h (temperature range, 11°C to 41°C). Camera trapping showed that wild boar (39%) and birds (56%) were the most frequent visitors to bait stations (selective feeders). Wild boar activity patterns were nocturnal, while diurnal activities were recorded for all bird species. We found large proportions of chewed capsules (29%) (likely ingestion of the vaccine) and lost baits (39%) (presumably consumed), and the proportion of chewed capsules showed a positive correlation with the presence of wild boar. Both results suggest proper bait consumption (68%). These results indicate that BCG vaccination in wild boar is safe and that, while bait consumption by other species is possible, this can be minimized by using selective cages and strict timing of bait deployment.
PMCID: PMC3910919  PMID: 24173022
10.  Long-Term Dynamics of Bluetongue Virus in Wild Ruminants: Relationship with Outbreaks in Livestock in Spain, 2006-2011 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e100027.
Wild and domestic ruminants are susceptible to Bluetongue virus (BTV) infection. Three BTV serotypes (BTV-4, BTV-1 and BTV-8) have been detected in Spain in the last decade. Even though control strategies have been applied to livestock, BTV circulation has been frequently detected in wild ruminant populations in Spain. The aim of the present study is to assess the role for wild ruminants in maintaining BTV after the vaccination programs in livestock in mainland Spain. A total of 931 out 1,914 (48.6%) serum samples, collected from eight different wild ruminant species between 2006 and 2011, were BTV positive by ELISA. In order to detect specific antibodies against BTV-1, BTV-4 and BTV-8, positive sera were also tested by serumneutralisation test (SNT). From the ELISA positive samples that could be tested by SNT (687 out of 931), 292 (42.5%) showed neutralising antibodies against one or two BTV serotypes. For each BTV seroptype, the number of outbreaks in livestock (11,857 outbreaks in total) was modelled with pure autoregressive models and the resulting smoothed values, representing the predicted number of BTV outbreaks in livestock at municipality level, were positively correlated with BTV persistence in wild species. The strength of this relationship significantly decreased as red deer (Cervus elaphus) population abundance increased. In addition, BTV RNA was detected by real time RT-PCR in 32 out of 311 (10.3%) spleen samples from seropositive animals. Although BT outbreaks in livestock have decreased substantially after vaccination campaigns, our results indicated that wild ruminants have been exposed to BTV in territories where outbreaks in domestic animals occurred. The detection of BTV RNA and spatial association between BT outbreaks in livestock and BTV rates in red deer are consistent with the hypothesis of virus circulation and BTV maintenance within Iberian wild ruminant populations.
PMCID: PMC4062458  PMID: 24940879
11.  Control of tick infestations and pathogen prevalence in cattle and sheep farms vaccinated with the recombinant Subolesin-Major Surface Protein 1a chimeric antigen 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7:10.
Despite the use of chemical acaricides, tick infestations continue to affect animal health and production worldwide. Tick vaccines have been proposed as a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative for tick control. Vaccination with the candidate tick protective antigen, Subolesin (SUB), has been shown experimentally to be effective in controlling vector infestations and pathogen infection. Furthermore, Escherichia coli membranes containing the chimeric antigen composed of SUB fused to Anaplasma marginale Major Surface Protein 1a (MSP1a) (SUB-MSP1a) were produced using a simple low-cost process and proved to be effective for the control of cattle tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus and R. annulatus infestations in pen trials. In this research, field trials were conducted to characterize the effect of vaccination with SUB-MSP1a on tick infestations and the prevalence of tick-borne pathogens in a randomized controlled prospective study.
Two cattle and two sheep farms with similar geographical locations and production characteristics were randomly assigned to control and vaccinated groups. Ticks were collected, counted, weighed and classified and the prevalence of tick-borne pathogens at the DNA and serological levels were followed for one year prior to and 9 months after vaccination.
Both cattle and sheep developed antibodies against SUB in response to vaccination. The main effect of the vaccine in cattle was the 8-fold reduction in the percent of infested animals while vaccination in sheep reduced tick infestations by 63%. Female tick weight was 32-55% lower in ticks collected from both vaccinated cattle and sheep when compared to controls. The seroprevalence of Babesia bigemina was lower by 30% in vaccinated cattle, suggesting a possible role for the vaccine in decreasing the prevalence of this tick-borne pathogen. The effect of the vaccine in reducing the frequency of one A. marginale msp4 genotype probably reflected the reduction in the prevalence of a tick-transmitted strain as a result of the reduction in the percent of tick-infested cattle.
These data provide evidence of the dual effect of a SUB-based vaccine for controlling tick infestations and pathogen infection/transmission and provide additional support for the use of the SUB-MSP1a vaccine for tick control in cattle and sheep.
PMCID: PMC3896746  PMID: 24398155
Subolesin; Tick; Vaccine; Anaplasma; Babesia; Theileria; Bovine; Ovine
12.  Wild boar tuberculosis in Iberian Atlantic Spain: a different picture from Mediterranean habitats 
Infections with Mycobacterium bovis and closely related members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTC) are shared between livestock, wildlife and sporadically human beings. Wildlife reservoirs exist worldwide and can interfere with bovine tuberculosis (TB) eradication efforts. The Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa) is a MTC maintenance host in Mediterranean Iberia (Spain and Portugal). However, few systematic studies in wild boar have been carried out in Atlantic regions. We describe the prevalence, distribution, pathology and epidemiology of MTC and other mycobacteria from wild boar in Atlantic Spain. A total of 2,067 wild boar were sampled between 2008 and 2012.
The results provide insight into the current status of wild boar as MTC and Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) hosts in temperate regions of continental Europe. The main findings were a low TB prevalence (2.6%), a low proportion of MTC infected wild boar displaying generalized TB lesions (16.7%), and a higher proportion of MAC infections (4.5%). Molecular typing revealed epidemiological links between wild boar and domestic – cattle, sheep and goat – and other wildlife – Eurasian badger (Meles meles) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) – hosts.
This study shows that the likelihood of MTC excretion by wild boar in Atlantic habitats is much lower than in Mediterranean areas. However, wild boar provide a good indicator of MTC circulation and, given the current re-emergence of animal TB, similar large-scale surveys would be advisable in other Atlantic regions of continental Europe.
PMCID: PMC3844463  PMID: 24010539
Wild boar; Tuberculosis; Mycobacterial infections; Atlantic Spain; Cattle
13.  Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiae in Questing Ticks, Central Spain 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2013;19(7):1163-1165.
PMCID: PMC3713984  PMID: 23763913
ticks; rickettsia; zoonosis; epidemiology; wildlife; spotted fever group rickettsiae; Spain; vector-borne infections
14.  Trap-effectiveness and response to tiletamine-zolazepam and medetomidine anaesthesia in Eurasian wild boar captured with cage and corral traps 
Capture, handling and chemical restraint are basic techniques often needed for research or management purposes. The aim of this study was testing a combination of tiletamine-zolazepam (TZ) (3 mg/kg) and medetomidine (M) (0.05 mg/kg) on Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa). A total of 77 free-ranging wild boar were captured by means of portable cages and corral traps and then anaesthetized with intramuscular darts using a blowpipe. The individual response to chemical immobilization was characterized using anaesthetic, clinical, and serum biochemical variables. After the procedure, 14 of these wild boar were monitored for 20 days using GPS-GSM collars.
Pre-release mortality during capture and handling (6.5%) was associated with severe trauma in corral traps. Capture specificity for wild boar was 96.3% and trapping effort was 16.5 days per captured wild boar. Mean induction period was 4.5 ± 2.2 min, hypnosis period enabling effective handling was 61.6 ± 25.4 min, and recovery period was 12.8 ± 12.1 min. No heart or respiratory failure due to added stress occurred and post-release monitoring by GPS-devices revealed no mortality due to anaesthesia. According to the best statistical model obtained, the main factor driving anaesthetic efficacy and stress indicators is trap type.
Both cage and corral traps are efficient methods to capture wild boar. Cage traps are safer, as demonstrated by mortality rates as well as anaesthetic, physiological, and serum biochemical responses. This anaesthetic protocol is useful for prolonged handling of wild boar and allows sampling and collecting data for ecological and epidemiological studies.
PMCID: PMC3665459  PMID: 23702232
Anaesthesia; Capture; Medetomidine; Stress; Tiletamine; Zolazepam; Wild boar
15.  Factors Driving the Abundance of Ixodes ricinus Ticks and the Prevalence of Zoonotic I. ricinus-Borne Pathogens in Natural Foci 
Environmental factors may drive tick ecology and therefore tick-borne pathogen (TBP) epidemiology, which determines the risk to animals and humans of becoming infected by TBPs. For this reason, the aim of this study was to analyze the influence of environmental factors on the abundance of immature-stage Ixodes ricinus ticks and on the prevalence of two zoonotic I. ricinus-borne pathogens in natural foci of endemicity. I. ricinus abundance was measured at nine sites in the northern Iberian Peninsula by dragging the vegetation with a cotton flannelette, and ungulate abundance was measured by means of dung counts. In addition to ungulate abundance, data on variables related to spatial location, climate, and soil were gathered from the study sites. I. ricinus adults, nymphs, and larvae were collected from the vegetation, and a representative subsample of I. ricinus nymphs from each study site was analyzed by PCR for the detection of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Anaplasma phagocytophilum DNA. Mean prevalences of these pathogens were 4.0% ± 1.8% and 20.5% ± 3.7%, respectively. Statistical analyses confirmed the influence of spatial factors, climate, and ungulate abundance on I. ricinus larva abundance, while nymph abundance was related only to climate. Interestingly, cattle abundance rather than deer abundance was the main driver of B. burgdorferi sensu lato and A. phagocytophilum prevalence in I. ricinus nymphs in the study sites, where both domestic and wild ungulates coexist. The increasing abundance of cattle seems to increase the risk of other hosts becoming infected by A. phagocytophilum, while reducing the risk of being infected by B. burgdorferi sensu lato. Controlling ticks in cattle in areas where they coexist with wild ungulates would be more effective for TBP control than reducing ungulate abundance.
PMCID: PMC3318823  PMID: 22286986
16.  A Bayesian approach to study the risk variables for tuberculosis occurrence in domestic and wild ungulates in South Central Spain 
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is a chronic infectious disease mainly caused by Mycobacterium bovis. Although eradication is a priority for the European authorities, bTB remains active or even increasing in many countries, causing significant economic losses. The integral consideration of epidemiological factors is crucial to more cost-effectively allocate control measures. The aim of this study was to identify the nature and extent of the association between TB distribution and a list of potential risk factors regarding cattle, wild ungulates and environmental aspects in Ciudad Real, a Spanish province with one of the highest TB herd prevalences.
We used a Bayesian mixed effects multivariable logistic regression model to predict TB occurrence in either domestic or wild mammals per municipality in 2007 by using information from the previous year. The municipal TB distribution and endemicity was clustered in the western part of the region and clearly overlapped with the explanatory variables identified in the final model: (1) incident cattle farms, (2) number of years of veterinary inspection of big game hunting events, (3) prevalence in wild boar, (4) number of sampled cattle, (5) persistent bTB-infected cattle farms, (6) prevalence in red deer, (7) proportion of beef farms, and (8) farms devoted to bullfighting cattle.
The combination of these eight variables in the final model highlights the importance of the persistence of the infection in the hosts, surveillance efforts and some cattle management choices in the circulation of M. bovis in the region. The spatial distribution of these variables, together with particular Mediterranean features that favour the wildlife-livestock interface may explain the M. bovis persistence in this region. Sanitary authorities should allocate efforts towards specific areas and epidemiological situations where the wildlife-livestock interface seems to critically hamper the definitive bTB eradication success.
PMCID: PMC3483254  PMID: 22931852
17.  Progress in Oral Vaccination against Tuberculosis in Its Main Wildlife Reservoir in Iberia, the Eurasian Wild Boar 
Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa) is the main wildlife reservoir for tuberculosis (TB) in Iberia. This review summarizes the current knowledge on wild boar vaccination including aspects of bait design, delivery and field deployment success; wild boar response to vaccination with Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) and inactivated Mycobacterium bovis; and wild boar vaccination biosafety issues as well as prospects on future research. Oral vaccination with BCG in captive wild boar has shown to be safe with significant levels of protection against challenge with virulent M. bovis. An oral vaccination with a new heat-killed M. bovis vaccine conferred a protection similar to BCG. The study of host-pathogen interactions identified biomarkers of resistance/susceptibility to tuberculosis in wild boar such as complement component 3 (C3) and methylmalonyl coenzyme A mutase (MUT) that were used for vaccine development. Finally, specific delivery systems were developed for bait-containing vaccines to target different age groups. Ongoing research includes laboratory experiments combining live and heat-killed vaccines and the first field trial for TB control in wild boar.
PMCID: PMC3400400  PMID: 22848869
18.  Mycobacterium bovis: A Model Pathogen at the Interface of Livestock, Wildlife, and Humans 
Complex and dynamic interactions involving domestic animals, wildlife, and humans create environments favorable to the emergence of new diseases, or reemergence of diseases in new host species. Today, reservoirs of Mycobacterium bovis, the causative agent of tuberculosis in animals, and sometimes humans, exist in a range of countries and wild animal populations. Free-ranging populations of white-tailed deer in the US, brushtail possum in New Zealand, badger in the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, and wild boar in Spain exemplify established reservoirs of M. bovis. Establishment of these reservoirs is the result of factors such as spillover from livestock, translocation of wildlife, supplemental feeding of wildlife, and wildlife population densities beyond normal habitat carrying capacities. As many countries attempt to eradicate M. bovis from livestock, efforts are impeded by spillback from wildlife reservoirs. It will not be possible to eradicate this important zoonosis from livestock unless transmission between wildlife and domestic animals is halted. Such an endeavor will require a collaborative effort between agricultural, wildlife, environmental, and political interests.
PMCID: PMC3377356  PMID: 22737588
19.  Seroprevalence and Risk Factors Associated to Mycobacterium bovis in Wild Artiodactyl Species from Southern Spain, 2006–2010 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):e34908.
The control of bovine tuberculosis (bTB) is at a critical point in the last stage of eradication in livestock. Wildlife species recently have emerged infected with TB in Europe, particularly ungulates in the Iberian Peninsula. Epidemiological information regarding TB in wild ungulates including affected species, prevalence, associated risk factors and appropriate diagnostic methods need to be obtained in these countries.
A cross-sectional study was carried out on wild artiodactyl species, including Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa) red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capraelus capraelus), fallow deer (Dama dama), Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica hispanica) and mouflon (Ovis musimon), in Spain to assess the seroprevalence against Mycobacterium bovis or cross-reacting members of the Mycobcaterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC), and to provide information on associated risk factors. Previously, two in-house indirect enzyme linked immunosorbent assays (bPPD-ELISA and MPB83-ELISA) were developed using known TB status sera. Positive reference sera were selected from infected animals confirmed by culture. The M. bovis isolates belonged to spoligotypes SB0121, SB0120, SB0295, SB0265 and SB0134. Two hundred and two out of 1367 (7.5%; 95% CI: 6.1–8.9) animals presented antibodies against M. bovis by both bPPD-ELISA and MPB83-ELISA. Significantly higher TB seroprevalence was observed in wild boar compared to the other species analyzed. Interestingly, seropositivity against M. bovis was not found in any out of 460 Spanish ibex analyzed. The logistic regression model for wild boar indicated that the seropositivity to M. bovis was associated with age, location and year of sampling, while the only risk factor associated with M. bovis seroprevalence in red deer and fallow deer was the age. The seroprevalence observed indicates a widespread exposure to MTBC in several wild artiodactyl species in southern Spain, which may have important implications not only for conservation but also for animal and public health.
PMCID: PMC3327704  PMID: 22523563
20.  Wild boar: an increasing concern for Aujeszky's disease control in pigs? 
The goal of this study was describing the temporal evolution of Aujeszky's disease virus (ADV) contact prevalence among Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa) populations under different management regimes and contact likelihoods with domestic pigs. Given the recent increase in wild boar abundance throughout Europe, we hypothesized that wild boar contact with ADV would remain stable in time even after significant reduction of ADV prevalence in domestic pigs.
Sera from 1659 wild boar were collected from 2000 to 2010 within 6 areas of the Iberian Peninsula and tested for the presence of antibodies against ADV by ELISA. According to sampling date, wild boar were grouped into three time periods. ADV prevalence was compared through period both globally and by geographic area. Overall seroprevalence for the ten-year study period was 49.6 ± 2.4%. The highest seroprevalence was recorded in areas with intense wild boar management. The annual proportion of positive wild boar sampling sites remained stable through the study period, while the percentage of domestic pig AD positive counties decreased from 70% in 2003 to 1.7% in 2010.
Results presented herein confirmed our hypothesis that ADV would remain almost stable in wild boar populations. This evidences the increasing risk wild boar pose in the final stages of ADV eradication in pigs and for wildlife conservation.
PMCID: PMC3274458  PMID: 22251441
Disease control; Monitoring; Pseudorabies; Seroprevalence; Sus scrofa; Wildlife
21.  Natural Bagaza virus infection in game birds in southern Spain 
Veterinary Research  2012;43(1):65.
In late summer 2010 a mosquito born flavivirus not previously reported in Europe called Bagaza virus (BAGV) caused high mortality in red-legged partridges (Alectoris rufa) and ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus). We studied clinical findings, lesions and viral antigen distribution in naturally BAGV infected game birds in order to understand the apparently higher impact on red-legged partridges. The disease induced neurologic signs in the two galliform species and, to a lesser extent, in common wood pigeons (Columba palumbus). In red-legged partridges infection by BAGV caused severe haemosiderosis in the liver and spleen that was absent in pheasants and less evident in common wood pigeons. Also, BAGV antigen was present in vascular endothelium in multiple organs in red-legged partridges, and in the spleen in common wood pigeons, while in ring-necked pheasants it was only detected in neurons and glial cells in the brain. These findings indicate tropism of BAGV for endothelial cells and a severe haemolytic process in red-legged partridges in addition to the central nervous lesions that were found in all three species.
PMCID: PMC3483237  PMID: 22966904
22.  Effect of haemolysis and repeated freeze-thawing cycles on wild boar serum antibody testing by ELISA 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:498.
Monitoring wildlife diseases is needed to identify changes in disease occurrence. Wildlife blood samples are valuable for this purpose but are often gathered haemolysed. To maximise information, sera often go through repeated analysis and freeze-thaw cycles. Herein, we used samples of clean and haemolysed Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa) serum stored at -20°C and thawed up to five times to study the effects of both treatments on the outcome of a commercial ELISA test for the detection of antibodies against Suid Herpesvirus 1 (ADV).
The estimated prevalence of antibodies against ADV was 50-53% for clean and haemolysed sera. Hence, haemolysis did not reduce the mean observed serum antibody prevalence. However, 10 samples changed their classification after repeated freeze-thawing. This included 3 (15%) of the clean sera and 7 (41%) of the haemolysed sera.
We recommend (1) establishing more restrictive cut-off values when testing wildlife sera, (2) recording serum quality prior to sample banking, (3) recording the number of freezing-thawing cycles and (4) store sera in various aliquots to reduce repeated usage. For instance, sera with more than 3 freeze-thaw cycles and a haemolysis of over 3 on a scale of 4 should better be discarded for serum antibody monitoring. Even clean (almost not haemolysed) sera should not go through more than 5 freeze-thaw cycles.
PMCID: PMC3226466  PMID: 22087883
Aujeszky's disease; Blood sample mishandling; Serological surveillance; Wildlife disease monitoring
23.  Protection against Tuberculosis in Eurasian Wild Boar Vaccinated with Heat-Inactivated Mycobacterium bovis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24905.
Tuberculosis (TB) caused by Mycobacterium bovis and closely related members of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex continues to affect humans and animals worldwide and its control requires vaccination of wildlife reservoir species such as Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa). Vaccination efforts for TB control in wildlife have been based primarily on oral live BCG formulations. However, this is the first report of the use of oral inactivated vaccines for controlling TB in wildlife. In this study, four groups of 5 wild boar each were vaccinated with inactivated M. bovis by the oral and intramuscular routes, vaccinated with oral BCG or left unvaccinated as controls. All groups were later challenged with a field strain of M. bovis. The results of the IFN-gamma response, serum antibody levels, M. bovis culture, TB lesion scores, and the expression of C3 and MUT genes were compared between these four groups. The results suggested that vaccination with heat-inactivated M. bovis or BCG protect wild boar from TB. These results also encouraged testing combinations of BCG and inactivated M. bovis to vaccinate wild boar against TB. Vaccine formulations using heat-inactivated M. bovis for TB control in wildlife would have the advantage of being environmentally safe and more stable under field conditions when compared to live BCG vaccines. The antibody response and MUT expression levels can help differentiating between vaccinated and infected wild boar and as correlates of protective response in vaccinated animals. These results suggest that vaccine studies in free-living wild boar are now possible to reveal the full potential of protecting against TB using oral M. bovis inactivated and BCG vaccines.
PMCID: PMC3173485  PMID: 21935486
24.  Temporal stability in the genetic structure of Sarcoptes scabiei under the host-taxon law: empirical evidences from wildlife-derived Sarcoptes mite in Asturias, Spain 
Parasites & Vectors  2011;4:151.
Implicitly, parasite molecular studies assume temporal genetic stability. In this study we tested, for the first time to our knowledge, the extent of changes in genetic diversity and structure of Sarcoptes mite populations from Pyrenean chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica) in Asturias (Spain), using one multiplex of 9 microsatellite markers and Sarcoptes samples from sympatric Pyrenean chamois, red deer (Cervus elaphus), roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and red fox (Vulpes vulpes).
The analysis of an 11-years interval period found little change in the genetic diversity (allelic diversity, and observed and expected heterozygosity). The temporal stability in the genetic diversity was confirmed by population structure analysis, which was not significantly variable over time. Population structure analysis revealed temporal stability in the genetic diversity of Sarcoptes mite under the host-taxon law (herbivore derived- and carnivore derived-Sarcoptes mite) among the sympatric wild animals from Asturias.
The confirmation of parasite temporal genetic stability is of vital interest to allow generalizations to be made, which have further implications regarding the genetic structure, epidemiology and monitoring protocols of the ubiquitous Sarcoptes mite. This could eventually be applied to other parasite species.
PMCID: PMC3160406  PMID: 21794141
25.  A Broad Assessment of Factors Determining Culicoides imicola Abundance: Modelling the Present and Forecasting Its Future in Climate Change Scenarios 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(12):e14236.
Bluetongue (BT) is still present in Europe and the introduction of new serotypes from endemic areas in the African continent is a possible threat. Culicoides imicola remains one of the most relevant BT vectors in Spain and research on the environmental determinants driving its life cycle is key to preventing and controlling BT. Our aim was to improve our understanding of the biotic and abiotic determinants of C. imicola by modelling its present abundance, studying the spatial pattern of predicted abundance in relation to BT outbreaks, and investigating how the predicted current distribution and abundance patterns might change under future (2011–2040) scenarios of climate change according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. C. imicola abundance data from the bluetongue national surveillance programme were modelled with spatial, topoclimatic, host and soil factors. The influence of these factors was further assessed by variation partitioning procedures. The predicted abundance of C. imicola was also projected to a future period. Variation partitioning demonstrated that the pure effect of host and topoclimate factors explained a high percentage (>80%) of the variation. The pure effect of soil followed in importance in explaining the abundance of C. imicola. A close link was confirmed between C. imicola abundance and BT outbreaks. To the best of our knowledge, this study is the first to consider wild and domestic hosts in predictive modelling for an arthropod vector. The main findings regarding the near future show that there is no evidence to suggest that there will be an important increase in the distribution range of C. imicola; this contrasts with an expected increase in abundance in the areas where it is already present in mainland Spain. What may be expected regarding the future scenario for orbiviruses in mainland Spain, is that higher predicted C. imicola abundance may significantly change the rate of transmission of orbiviruses.
PMCID: PMC2997795  PMID: 21151914

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