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Differences in the vulnerability of waterbird species to botulism outbreaks in Mediterranean wetlands: an assessment of ecological and physiological factors

AuthorsAnza, Ibone ; Vidal, Dolors ; Feliú, Jordi; Crespo, Elena; Mateo, Rafael
Issue Date2016
PublisherAmerican Society for Microbiology
CitationApplied and Environmental Microbiology 82(10): 3092-3099 (2016)
AbstractAvian botulism kills thousands of waterbirds every year, including endangered species, but information about the differences between species in vulnerability to botulism outbreaks and the capacity to act as carriers of Clostridium botulinum is still poorly known. Here, we estimated the vulnerability to botulism of 11 waterbird species from Mediterranean wetlands by comparing the number of affected birds with the census of individuals at risk. The capacity of different species to act as carriers was studied by detecting the presence of the C. botulinum type C/D botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) gene in fecal samples and prey items of waterbirds in the wild and by the serial sampling of cloacal swabs of birds affected by botulism. We found differences among species in their vulnerabilities to botulism, probably related to feeding habits, season of arrival, turnover, and, possibly, phylogenetic resilience. The globally endangered white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) showed mortality rates in the studied outbreaks of 7% and 17% of the maximum census, which highlights botulism as a risk factor for the conservation of the species. Invasive water snails, such as Physa acuta, may be important drivers in botulism epidemiology, because 30% of samples tested positive for the BoNT gene during outbreaks. Finally, our results show that birds may excrete the pathogen for up to 7 days, and some individuals can do it for longer periods. Rails and ducks excreted C. botulinum more often and for longer times than gulls, which could be related to their digestive physiology (i.e., cecum development).
Identifiersdoi: 10.1128/AEM.00119-16
e-issn: 1098-5336
issn: 0099-2240
Appears in Collections:(IREC) Artículos
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