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Zoonotic pathogens isolated from wild animals and environmental samples at two California wildlife hospitals

Jennifer L. Siembieda DVM, MPVM, PhD1, Woutrina A. Miller DVM, MPVM, PhD2, Barbara A. Byrne DVM, PhD, DACVIM3, Michael H. Ziccardi DVM, MPVM, PhD4, Nancy Anderson DMV, PhD5, Nadira Chouicha PhD6, Christian E. Sandrock MD, MPH7, and Christine K. Johnson VMD, MPVM, PhD8
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  • 1 Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 2 Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 3 Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 4 Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 5 Lindsay Wildlife Museum, 1931 First Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94597.
  • | 6 Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 95616.
  • | 7 Divisions of Infectious Disease and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California-Davis, Sacramento, CA 95817.
  • | 8 Wildlife Health Center, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA 95616.

Abstract

Objective—To determine types and estimate prevalence of potentially zoonotic enteric pathogens shed by wild animals admitted to either of 2 wildlife hospitals and to characterize distribution of these pathogens and of aerobic bacteria in a hospital environment.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample—Fecal samples from 338 animals in 2 wildlife hospitals and environmental samples from 1 wildlife hospital.

Procedures—Fecal samples were collected within 24 hours of hospital admission. Environmental samples were collected from air and surfaces. Samples were tested for zoonotic pathogens via culture techniques and biochemical analyses. Prevalence of pathogen shedding was compared among species groups, ages, sexes, and seasons. Bacterial counts were determined for environmental samples.

ResultsCampylobacter spp, Vibrio spp, Salmonella spp, Giardia spp, and Cryptosporidium spp (alone or in combination) were detected in 105 of 338 (31%) fecal samples. Campylobacter spp were isolated only from birds. Juvenile passerines were more likely to shed Campylobacter spp than were adults; prevalence increased among juvenile passerines during summer. Non-O1 serotypes of Vibrio cholerae were isolated from birds; during an oil-spill response, 9 of 10 seabirds screened were shedding this pathogen, which was also detected in environmental samples. Salmonella spp and Giardia spp were isolated from birds and mammals; Cryptosporidium spp were isolated from mammals only. Floors of animal rooms had higher bacterial counts than did floors with only human traffic.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Potentially zoonotic enteric pathogens were identified in samples from several species admitted to wildlife hospitals, indicating potential for transmission if prevention is not practiced.

Abstract

Objective—To determine types and estimate prevalence of potentially zoonotic enteric pathogens shed by wild animals admitted to either of 2 wildlife hospitals and to characterize distribution of these pathogens and of aerobic bacteria in a hospital environment.

Design—Cross-sectional study.

Sample—Fecal samples from 338 animals in 2 wildlife hospitals and environmental samples from 1 wildlife hospital.

Procedures—Fecal samples were collected within 24 hours of hospital admission. Environmental samples were collected from air and surfaces. Samples were tested for zoonotic pathogens via culture techniques and biochemical analyses. Prevalence of pathogen shedding was compared among species groups, ages, sexes, and seasons. Bacterial counts were determined for environmental samples.

ResultsCampylobacter spp, Vibrio spp, Salmonella spp, Giardia spp, and Cryptosporidium spp (alone or in combination) were detected in 105 of 338 (31%) fecal samples. Campylobacter spp were isolated only from birds. Juvenile passerines were more likely to shed Campylobacter spp than were adults; prevalence increased among juvenile passerines during summer. Non-O1 serotypes of Vibrio cholerae were isolated from birds; during an oil-spill response, 9 of 10 seabirds screened were shedding this pathogen, which was also detected in environmental samples. Salmonella spp and Giardia spp were isolated from birds and mammals; Cryptosporidium spp were isolated from mammals only. Floors of animal rooms had higher bacterial counts than did floors with only human traffic.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Potentially zoonotic enteric pathogens were identified in samples from several species admitted to wildlife hospitals, indicating potential for transmission if prevention is not practiced.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Anderson's present address is Six Flags Kingdom, 1001 Fairgrounds Dr, Vallejo, CA 94589.

Supported by a subaward with the University Corporation of Atmospheric Research (UCAR) under Grant No. NA06OAR4310119 (Training tomorrow's ecosystem and public health leaders using marine mammals as sentinels of oceanic change) with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), US Department of Commerce. Support was also provided by the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (managed by the Wildlife Health Center, University of California-Davis).

The authors thank Rachel Avilla, Michelle Bellizzi, Poyin Chen, Devin Dombrowski, Sandy Fender, Susan Heckly, Robin Houston, Spencer Jang, Marcia Metzler, Pam Nave, Jarl Rasmussen, Marie Travers, JoAnn Yee, and Jean Yim for technical assistance.

Address correspondence to Dr. Siembieda (jensiembieda@ucdavis.edu).