Zoonotic pathogens in the American mink in its southernmost distribution.
The American mink, Neovison vison, is an invasive species in Chile. Its impact on native fauna and public health has not been studied in depth in the country. In this study, we searched for gastrointestinal parasites, including helminths and zoonotic Cryptosporidium sp., the presence of Trichinella sp. in muscle, and the renal carriage of pathogenic Leptospira sp. in minks caught on Navarino Island, "Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena" Region, and Maullín and Ancud, "Los Lagos" Region, Chile. A total of 58, 15, and 21 minks from Navarino Island, Maullín, and Ancud, respectively, were examined for Trichinella sp. (artificial digestion of muscle). A total of 36, 11, and 17 minks from Navarino Island, Maullín, and Ancud, respectively, were examined for pathogenic Leptospira species (molecular detection of LipL32 gen fragment in renal tissue) infection. Finally, 45, 11, and 17 minks from Navarino Island, Maullín, and Ancud, respectively, were analyzed to detect gastrointestinal parasites (by optical inspection of the digestive tract for helminths, and by both Ziehl-Neelsen stain and molecular detection of small subunit-ribosomal DNA for Cryptosporidium species). Trichinella larvae were not observed. Pathogenic Leptospira sp. was detected in 22 samples: 15 from Navarino Island, 3 from Maullín, and 4 from Ancud. Two nematodes, belonging to Ascaridinae (subfamily) and Pterygodermatites (Paucipectines) sp., were found in samples of two minks from Navarino Island. Oocysts and DNA of Cryptosporidium sp. were detected in three fecal samples from Navarino Island. Further studies could determine the zoonotic potential of Cryptosporidium sp., as well as the potential impact of the zoonotic Leptospira sp. on the human population of the Navarino Island, Maullín, and Ancud districts. The enemy release theory could explain the low helminth species richness in the minks. In addition, we did not find evidence of parasite transmission from native fauna.