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A post-mortem study of respiratory disease in small mustelids in south-west England

AuthorsSimpson, V. R.; Tomlinson, A. J.; Stevenson, K.; McLuckie, J. A.; Benavides, Julio ; Dagleish, M.
Respiratory disease
Issue Date2016
PublisherBioMed Central
CitationBMC Veterinary Research 12 (2016)
AbstractBackground: Stoat (Mustela erminea) and weasel (Mustela nivalis) populations in south-west England are declining whilst polecats (Mustela putorius), absent for over a century, are increasing. Little is known about the health status of these species nationally. This study aimed at investigating respiratory disease in specimens found dead in south-west England. Results: Trauma caused by road traffic, predator attack or being trapped was the predominant cause of death in 42 stoats, 31 weasels and 20 polecats; most were in good physical condition. Skrjabingylus nasicola was present in all species (weasels 37 %, polecats 39 %, stoats 41 %) and infected animals showed no evidence of loss of body condition. Even in carcases stored frozen L larvae were frequently alive and highly motile. Angiostrongylus vasorum infection was diagnosed in two stoats and one weasel: in stoats infections were patent and the lung lesions were likely of clinical significance. These are believed to be the first records of A. vasorum in small mustelids. Pleuritis and pyothorax was seen in two polecats, in one case due to a migrating grass awn. Histological examination of lungs showed granulomata in stoats (38 %), weasels (52 %) and polecats (50 %). Spherules consistent with Emmonsia spp. adiaspores were present in the granulomata of stoats (60 %), weasels (36 %) and polecats (29 %). Adiaspore diameter in all three species was similar (means: stoats 39 μm, weasels 30 μm, polecats 36 μm); these are markedly smaller than that normally recorded for E. crescens. Although they lie within the accepted range for spores of Emmonsia parva this arid-zone species is not found in Britain, thus raising a question over the identity of the fungus. Cases showing numerous granulomata but few or no adiaspores were Ziehl-Neelsen-stain negative for acid-fast bacilli and IHC negative for Mycobacterium spp. However, in some cases PCR analyses revealed mycobacteria, including Mycobacterium kumamotonense and Mycobacterium avium Complex. One stoat had numerous unidentified small organisms present centrally within granulomata. Conclusions: Stoats, weasels and polecats in south-west England share several respiratory diseases, often of high prevalence, but the pathology would appear insufficient to impact on the health status of the populations and other ultimate causes of death should be investigated when examining these species.
Description14 páginas, 3 tablas, 11 figuras.--This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12917-016-0693-9
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