Survey of Toxoplasma gondii and Trichinella spp. in hedgehogs living in proximity to urban areas in the Czech Republic
Hedgehogs (Mammalia: Erinaceidae) are omnivorous nocturnal animals typically living in anthropogenic areas. They may be suitable as sentinels for a wide range of zoonotic infections. Only a few studies have investigated hedgehogs (and then as representative wildlife species) to establish their role in the life cycle of such tissue parasites with zoonotic potential as Toxoplasma gondii or Trichinella spp. Working with frozen hedgehog cadavers, we tested for these parasites using T. gondii DNA-specific magnetic capture isolation plus polymerase chain reaction and Trichinella spp. digestion assay. All of 50 examined hedgehogs were negative for Trichinella spp. larvae in their muscles, but brain tissue from 5 out of 26 Erinaceus europaeus (19.2%) and 4 out of 24 E. roumanicus (16.6%) tested positive for T. gondii DNA. Frequency of T. gondii for both hedgehog species was equal, as was distribution between males and females and across age categories. Although a few studies have suggested the possibility of Trichinella spp. infection in hedgehogs, the zero prevalence in the tested hedgehogs is not surprising in view of the generally low prevalence of Trichinella spp. in Central Europe. Our results show that hedgehogs are susceptible to infection by T. gondii and can be used as indicator wildlife animal species in anthropogenic ecosystems.
KeywordsZoonosis Erinaceus europaeus Erinaceus roumanicus Wild mammals Sentinel animal
The authors thank all those rescue centres involved in the project for providing data and samples for our research.
This study was funded by the Grant Agency of the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno (project no. IGA 88/2014/FVL).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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