Causes of mortality and morbidity in free-ranging mustelids in Switzerland: necropsy data from over 50 years of general health surveillance

Publication Type:Journal Article
Year of Publication:2018
Authors:E. Akdesir, Origgi, F. C., Wimmershoff, J., Frey, J., Frey, C. F., Ryser-Degiorgis, M. - P.
Journal:BMC Veterinary Research
Pagination:19 pp
Date Published:June-2018
Type of Article:Open Access
Keywords:Amyloidosis, bacteria, badger, Canine distemper, Histoplasmosis, Marten, parasites, Pathology, Sarcoptic mange, virus

Background: Although mustelids occur worldwide and include a wide range of species, little is known about the diseases affecting them. Mustelids have regularly been submitted for post mortem investigation in the framework of the program for general wildlife health surveillance in Switzerland, which has been in place for nearly 60 years. We performed a retrospective analysis of the necropsy reports on mustelids submitted to the diagnostic service of the University of Bern. The aims of this study were to present an overview of the causes of mortality and morbidity observed in these carnivores, to assess differences among species, to assess changes in disease detection over the study period, and to describe the pathology of selected diseases.
Results: Five hundred and sixty-six reports from 1958 to 2015 were analyzed. Most animals were stone martens (Martes foina, 46%) and badgers (Meles meles, 44%); the remaining species were polecats (Mustela putorius, 4.7%), pine martens (Martes martes, 2%), stoats (Mustela erminea, 1.4%), weasels (Mustela nivalis, 0.8%) and otters (Lutra lutra, 0.3%). Infectious diseases (n = 262) were frequent and were mostly bacterial or viral; non-infectious conditions (n = 169) were less common and were mostly traumatic or due to metabolic disorders. The most frequent diagnoses included distemper (75% were badgers), amyloidosis (96% were martens), bacterial respiratory infections (all mustelids), biting lice (badgers only) and pulmonary and gastro-intestinal helminths (all species). Less frequent diseases included histoplasmosis (badgers only), aspergillosis, toxoplasmosis, hepatozoonosis, and sarcoptic mange. Lesions due to infection with distemper virus were primarily appreciated in the respiratory tract and central nervous system; they presented species-specific characteristics such as necrosis in the ependyma in badgers and absence of syncytia in stone martens. Amyloidosis in martens was multisystemic in most cases and included both AA and AL amyloidosis; the main macroscopic change was severe splenomegaly.
Conclusion: Infectious diseases were the most frequent causes of morbidity and mortality of mustelids, with marked species-specific differences. Lung and skin were the most commonly affected organs. Contagious diseases such as canine distemper, sarcoptic mange and rabies in mustelids showed a similar temporal pattern as in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), suggesting pathogen spillovers from foxes to mustelids.

Of interest in lice see page 8, 9, 4 & 15 Fig 7a and Table 4

Short Title:BMC Vet Res
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