Salmonella, Campylobacter, Clostridium difficile, and anti-microbial resistant Escherichia coli in the faeces of sympatric meso-mammals in southern Ontario, Canada.
The role of free-ranging wildlife in the epidemiology of enteropathogens causing clinical illness in humans and domestic animals is unclear. Salmonella enterica and anti-microbial resistant bacteria have been detected in the faeces of raccoons (Procyon lotor), but little is known about the carriage of these bacteria in other sympatric meso-mammals. Our objectives were to: (a) report the prevalence of Salmonella and associated anti-microbial resistance, Campylobacter spp., Clostridium difficile, and anti-microbial resistant Escherichia coli in the faeces of striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis) and Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) in southern Ontario; and (b) compare the prevalence of these bacteria in the faeces of these meso-mammal hosts with raccoons from a previously reported study. Faecal swabs were collected from striped skunks and Virginia opossums on five swine farms and five conservation areas from 2011 to 2013. Salmonella was detected in 41% (9/22) and 5% (5/95) of faecal swabs from Virginia opossums and striped skunks, respectively. None of the Salmonella serovars carried resistance to anti-microbials. The prevalence of Campylobacter spp., C. difficile, and anti-microbial resistant E. coli ranged from 6% to 22% in striped skunk and Virginia opossums. Using exact logistic regression, Salmonella was significantly more likely to be detected in faecal swabs of Virginia opossums than skunks and significantly less likely in faecal swabs from skunks than raccoons from a previously reported study. In addition, Campylobacter spp. was significantly more likely to be detected in raccoons than opossums. Salmonella Give was detected in 8/9 (89%) of Salmonella-positive Virginia opossum faecal swabs. Our results suggest that striped skunks and Virginia opossums have the potential to carry pathogenic enteric bacteria in their faeces. The high prevalence of Salmonella Give in Virginia opossum faecal swabs in this study as well as its common occurrence in other Virginia opossum studies throughout North America suggests Virginia opossums may be reservoirs of this serovar.