Red foxes harbor two genetically distinct, spatially separated Echinococcus multilocularis clusters in Brandenburg, Germany
BackgroundAlveolar echinococcosis (AE) is a clinically serious zoonosis caused by the fox tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis. We studied the diversity and the distribution of genotypes of E. multilocularis isolated from foxes in Brandenburg, Germany, and in comparison to a hunting ground in North Rhine-Westphalia.
MethodsEchinococcus multilocularis specimens from 101 foxes, 91 derived from Brandenburg and 10 derived from North Rhine-Westphalia, were examined. To detect potential mixed infections with different genotypes of E. multilocularis, five worms per fox were analyzed. For genotyping, three mitochondrial markers, namely cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (Cox1), NADH dehydrogenase subunit 1 (Nad1), and ATP synthase subunit 6 (ATP6), and the nuclear microsatellite marker EmsB were used. To identify nucleotide polymorphisms, the mitochondrial markers were sequenced and the data were compared, including with published sequences from other regions. EmsB fragment length profiles were determined and confirmed by Kohonen network analysis and grouping of Sammon's nonlinear mapping with k-means clustering. The spatial distribution of genotypes was analyzed by SaTScan for the EmsB profiles found in Brandenburg.
ResultsWith both the mitochondrial makers and the EmsB microsatellite fragment length profile analyses, mixed infections with different E. multilocularis genotypes were detected in foxes from Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia. Genotyping using the mitochondrial markers showed that the examined parasite specimens belong to the European haplotype of E. multilocularis, but a detailed spatial analysis was not possible due to the limited heterogeneity of these markers in the parasite population. Four (D, E, G, and H) out of the five EmsB profiles described in Europe so far were detected in the samples from Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia. The EmsB profile G was the most common. A spatial cluster of the E. multilocularis genotype with the EmsB profile G was found in northeastern Brandenburg, and a cluster of profile D was found in southern parts of this state.
ConclusionsGenotyping of E. multilocularis showed that individual foxes may harbor different genotypes of the parasite. EmsB profiles allowed the identification of spatial clusters, which may help in understanding the distribution and spread of the infection in wildlife, and in relatively small endemic areas.