Molecular Survey on Brucellosis in Rodents and Shrews – Natural Reservoirs of Novel Brucella Species in Germany?
Brucellosis is a widespread zoonotic disease introduced from animal reservoirs to humans. In Germany, bovine and ovine/caprine brucellosis were eradicated more than a decade ago and mandatory measures in livestock have been implemented to keep the officially brucellosis-free status. In contrast, surveillance of wildlife is still challenging, and reliable data on the prevalence of brucellae in small mammal populations do not exist. To assess the epidemiology of Brucella spp. in rodents and shrews, a molecular survey was carried out. A total of 537 rodents and shrews were trapped in four federal states located throughout Germany and investigated for the presence of Brucella. Using a two-step molecular assay based on the detection of the Brucella-specific bcsp31 and IS711 sequences in tissue samples, 14.2% (n = 76) of the tested animals were positive. These originated mainly from western and south-western Germany, where preliminary analyses indicate population density-dependent Brucella prevalence in voles (Myodes glareolus) and mice (Apodemus spp.). recA typing revealed a close relationship to a potentially novel Brucella species recently isolated from red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in Austria. The molecular detection of brucellae in various rodent taxa and for the first time in shrew species shows that these animals may be naturally infected or at least have a history of exposure to Brucella spp.
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