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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Disease control; Monitoring; Pseudorabies; Seroprevalence; Sus scrofa; Wildlife
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.
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.
Aujeszky's disease; Blood sample mishandling; Serological surveillance; Wildlife disease monitoring
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.
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.
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.
To describe the epidemiology of hepatitis E virus (HEV) in red deer in mainland Spain, we tested red deer for HEV RNA and antibodies. Overall, 10.4% and 13.6% of serum samples were positive by ELISA and reverse transcription–PCR, respectively. The increasing prevalence suggests a potential risk for humans.
Viruses; epidemiology; hepatitis E; red deer; reservoir; wildlife; zoonosis; Spain; dispatch
The roe deer is the most abundant and widespread wild Eurasian cervid. Its populations are expanding and increasingly in contact with livestock. This may affect the distribution of infectious diseases shared with other wild and domestic ungulates.
We investigated the antibody seroprevalence against Pestivirus, Herpesvirus, Bluetongue (BT) virus, M. avium paratuberculosis (MAP), and Brucella sp. in 519 roe deer from different regions in Spain, south-western Europe.
No antibodies were detected against BT and Brucella sp. However, antibodies were detected against Pestivirus (1.5%), Herpesvirus (0.2%) and MAP (9.2%). MAP antibodies were detected in seven of the eight populations (range 5-16.4%).
The detection of MAP antibodies in samples from most roe deer populations suggests that contact with MAP is widespread in this wildlife species. The highest prevalence was detected in sites with abundant dairy cattle and frequent use of liquid manure on pastures. Considering the results obtained regarding exposure to different pathogens, we suggest that antibody prevalences in this non-gregarious browser are largely determined by environmental factors, potentially modulating vector populations or pathogen survival in the environment.
The role of wildlife as a brucellosis reservoir for humans and domestic livestock remains to be properly established. The aim of this work was to determine the aetiology, apparent prevalence, spatial distribution and risk factors for brucellosis transmission in several Iberian wild ungulates.
A multi-species indirect immunosorbent assay (iELISA) using Brucella S-LPS antigen was developed. In several regions having brucellosis in livestock, individual serum samples were taken between 1999 and 2009 from 2,579 wild bovids, 6,448 wild cervids and4,454 Eurasian wild boar (Sus scrofa), and tested to assess brucellosis apparent prevalence. Strains isolated from wild boar were characterized to identify the presence of markers shared with the strains isolated from domestic pigs.
Mean apparent prevalence below 0.5% was identified in chamois (Rupicapra pyrenaica), Iberian wild goat (Capra pyrenaica), and red deer (Cervus elaphus). Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), fallow deer (Dama dama), mouflon (Ovis aries) and Barbary sheep (Ammotragus lervia) tested were seronegative. Only one red deer and one Iberian wild goat resulted positive in culture, isolating B. abortus biovar 1 and B. melitensis biovar 1, respectively. Apparent prevalence in wild boar ranged from 25% to 46% in the different regions studied, with the highest figures detected in South-Central Spain. The probability of wild boar being positive in the iELISA was also affected by age, age-by-sex interaction, sampling month, and the density of outdoor domestic pigs. A total of 104 bacterial isolates were obtained from wild boar, being all identified as B. suis biovar 2. DNA polymorphisms were similar to those found in domestic pigs.
In conclusion, brucellosis in wild boar is widespread in the Iberian Peninsula, thus representing an important threat for domestic pigs. By contrast, wild ruminants were not identified as a significant brucellosis reservoir for livestock.
We studied the potential of red deer as bluetongue maintenance hosts and sentinels. Deer maintained detectable bluetongue virus (BTV) serotype 4 RNA for 1 year after the virus was cleared from livestock. However, the virus was not transmitted to yearlings. BTV serotype 1 RNA was detected in red deer immediately after its first detection in cattle.
Antibodies; RT-PCR; serotypes 1 and 4; wildlife reservoir; wild ruminants; Bluetongue virus; red deer; viruses; Spain; dispatch
Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) remains a significant problem in some parts of Spain largely because of contacts between cattle and wildlife reservoirs in extensive grazing systems. European Wild boar (Sus scrofa) is one of the species involved in the transmission of the disease to other species. Fast and simple detection methods would be critical for assessing infection prevalence, study the mechanisms of pathogen transmission and monitoring the effects of TB control measures.
An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect antibodies against Mycobacterium bovis in wild boar serum was developed and validated on 185 sera from TB positive and negative wild boar. Based on antigen inoculation of captive animals as well as tuberculosis compatible lesions, culture results and molecular analysis of hunted individuals, animals were allocated into two groups: tuberculosis positive group and tuberculosis negative group. After optimization of the positive to negative ratio using different combinations of serum dilutions and conjugate concentrations, the test yielded a sensitivity of 72.60% and a specificity of 96.43% for the best cut-off.
Although some negative group animals showed an ELISA positive reaction (< 3%), this assay showed a high potential for accurate diagnosis of TB in wild boar, as its large dynamic range supported a good discriminatory power and a satisfactory balance between sensitivity and specificity.
Foci of tick-borne pathogens occur at fine spatial scales, and depend upon a complex arrangement of factors involving climate, host abundance and landscape composition. It has been proposed that the presence of hosts that support tick feeding but not pathogen multiplication may dilute the transmission of the pathogen. However, models need to consider the spatial component to adequately explain how hosts, ticks and pathogens are distributed into the landscape.
In this study, a novel, lattice-derived, behavior-based, spatially-explicit model was developed to test how changes in the assumed perception of different landscape elements affect the outcome of the connectivity between patches and therefore the dilution effect. The objective of this study was to explain changes in the exposure rate (ER) of red deer to Anaplasma spp. under different configurations of suitable habitat and landscape fragmentation in the presence of variable densities of the potentially diluting host, wild boar. The model showed that the increase in habitat fragmentation had a deep impact on Habitat Sharing Ratio (HSR), a parameter describing the amount of habitat shared by red deer and wild boar, weighted by the probability of the animals to remain together in the same patch (according to movement rules), the density of ticks and the density of animals at a given vegetation patch, and decreased the dilution effect of wild boar on deer Anaplasma ER.
The model was validated with data collected on deer, wild boar and tick densities, climate, landscape composition, host vegetation preferences and deer seropositivity to Anaplasma spp. (as a measure of ER) in 10 study sites in Spain. However, although conditions were appropriate for a dilution effect, empirical results did not show a decrease in deer ER in sites with high wild boar densities. The model showed that the HSR was the most effective parameter to explain the absence of the dilution effect. These results suggest that host habitat usage may weaken the predicted dilution effect for tick-borne pathogens and emphasize the importance of the perceptual capabilities of different hosts in different landscapes and habitat fragmentation conditions for predictions of dilution effects.
Doñana National Park (DNP) in southern Spain is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve where commercial hunting and wildlife artificial feeding do not take place and traditional cattle husbandry still exists. Herein, we hypothesized that Mycobacterium bovis infection prevalence in wild ungulates will depend on host ecology and that variation in prevalence will reflect variation in the interaction between hosts and environmental risk factors. Cattle bTB reactor rates increased in DNP despite compulsory testing and culling of infected animals. In this study, 124 European wild boar, 95 red deer, and 97 fallow deer were sampled from April 2006 to April 2007 and analyzed for M. bovis infection. Modelling and GIS were used to identify risk factors and intra and inter-species relationships. Infection with M. bovis was confirmed in 65 (52.4%) wild boar, 26 (27.4%) red deer and 18 (18.5%) fallow deer. In the absence of cattle, wild boar M. bovis prevalence reached 92.3% in the northern third of DNP. Wild boar showed more than twice prevalence than that in deer (p<0.001). Modelling revealed that M. bovis prevalence decreased from North to South in wild boar (p<0.001) and red deer (p<0.01), whereas no spatial pattern was evidenced for fallow deer. Infection risk in wild boar was dependent on wild boar M. bovis prevalence in the buffer area containing interacting individuals (p<0.01). The prevalence recorded in this study is among the highest reported in wildlife. Remarkably, this high prevalence occurs in the absence of wildlife artificial feeding, suggesting that a feeding ban alone would have a limited effect on wildlife M. bovis prevalence. In DNP, M. bovis transmission may occur predominantly at the intra-species level due to ecological, behavioural and epidemiological factors. The results of this study allow inferring conclusions on epidemiological bTB risk factors in Mediterranean habitats that are not managed for hunting purposes. Our results support the need to consider wildlife species for the control of bTB in cattle and strongly suggest that bTB may affect animal welfare and conservation.
We confirmed the emergence of bluetongue virus (BTV) in 5 wild ruminant species in Spain. BTV seroprevalence was high and dispersed with time, with a south-to-north gradient. Our results suggest a complex epidemiology of BTV and underline the need for additional research on wildlife in Europe.
Epidemiology; Spain; Europe; Orbivirus; bluetongue virus; vector-borne diseases; wildlife; ruminants; dispatch