Spatiotemporal and ecological patterns of Mycobacterium microti infection in wild boar (Sus scrofa).
Mycobacterium microti has recently been described as the causative agent of tuberculosis-like lesions in wild boar (Sus scrofa), a reservoir specie of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC) in some European Mediterranean ecosystem. Through a five-year survey on tuberculosis in free-living wild boars, the epidemiological trend of M. microti infections and the host and population risk factors linked with its occurrence were described. Retropharyngeal and mandibular lymph nodes of 3041 hunted wild boars from six different districts were macroscopically inspected. The sex and age of each animal were registered, as well as the animal abundance in each district. Lesions compatible with tuberculosis (190) were collected and analysed using a gyrB PCR-RFLP assay. M. microti was identified directly in 99 tissue samples (Prev=3.26%; 95% CI: 2.67-3.97%), while neither Mycobacterium bovis, nor other members of the MTBC were detected. The probability of being M. microti positive showed spatio-temporal variability, with 26% of increase of risk of being infected for each year. Moreover, a positive effect of wild boar abundance and age on the prevalence was detected. The generalized increase in the European wild boar population, coupled with its sensitivity to M. microti infection, poses a future concern for the identification and management of MTBC members in wild boar.