First case of tuberculosis by Mycobacterium caprae detected in a fox in the Iberian Peninsula

Massive sequencing tools have made it possible to relate a case of generalized tuberculosis in a fox caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium caprae with outbreaks of tuberculosis in domestic animals. This is the first case of tuberculosis caused by this bacterium detected in a fox in the Iberian Peninsula.

This case is collected in a study published in the scientific journal BMC Veterinary Research. One of its authors Bernat Perez deVal, A researcher from the Animal Health program at the IRTA Animal Health Research Center (CReSA), explains this new finding in detail in an article.

Although it is well known that among wild carnivores, badgers can suffer from tuberculosis and transmit the infection to other animal species, in recent years a trickle of tuberculosis cases have been reported in foxes in Europe. Now, in Catalonia, thanks to the new massive sequencing tools (complete sequencing of the bacterial genome), “we have been able to link a case of generalized tuberculosis in a fox caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium caprae with an outbreak of tuberculosis in a cattle farm in the same municipality. In addition, the data also suggests a relationship with two other outbreaks of tuberculosis in goats,” says the expert.

The fox was found blind and very thin. They then sent it to the Vallcalent Fauna Center and, after a clinical evaluation, the animal was euthanized and sent to the Wild Fauna Ecopathology Service (SEFaS) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona for a necropsy in which generalized lesions were observed. of tuberculosis that were later confirmed by histopathology together with a co-infection with the Brom virus. Subsequently, the samples were transferred to the IRTA-CReSA High Biocontainment Unit where the microbiological culture was carried out and the Mycobacterium caprae bacterium was isolated.

“In collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services (NVLS-USDA), a whole genome sequencing study of this M. caprae isolated in the fox that was analyzed along with other isolates from M. caprae in domestic and wild animals of Catalonia. The The results evidenced a close phylogenetic proximity of the isolates of M. caprae of the fox with those obtained from a cattle farm in the same municipality a few months before, indicating transmission by direct or indirect contact between farm animals and the fox. The analysis also identified proximity, although to a lesser extent, with those isolated in two goat farms that could be indirectly related to the outbreak,” says Pérez de Val.

These results highlight the usefulness of a good system of passive surveillance in wildlife.as well as the need to take tuberculosis into account in the differential diagnosis in foxes with poor body condition and the possibility of include this species in active surveillance campaigns for the tuberculosis in wildlife“, he concludes.

This study has been funded by the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda, the Interreg-POCTEFA program (EFA357/19/INNOTUB) and the ERDF.

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First case of tuberculosis by Mycobacterium caprae detected in a fox in the Iberian Peninsula


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