Invasive Species Compendium

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Abstract

Aleutian mink disease: spatio-temporal variation of prevalence and influence on the feral American mink.

Abstract

Pathogens are one of the factors driving wildlife population dynamics. The spread of pathogens in wildlife is currently highly related to the transmission of pathogens from farmed animals, which has increased with the constant development of farming. Here, we analysed the spatio-temporal variation in the prevalence of Aleutian mink disease virus (AMDV) antibodies in feral American mink (Neovison vison) populations in Poland (1,153 individuals from nine sites) in relation to mink farming intensity. AMDV was detected in feral mink at all study sites and the prevalence ranged from 0.461 in the northern region to 0.826 in the western region. Mink males and adults were infected more often than females and subadults; the infection was also more frequent during the mink breeding season than during non-breeding. The prevalence of AMDV changed non-linearly in consecutive years and the peak of prevalence was every 3-4 years. The predicted AMDV prevalence was low at sites where the number of farmed mink was also low and increased linearly with the increase in the number of mink kept on farms. The predicted AMDV prevalence at sites with low mink farming intensity strongly varied between years, whereas at sites with high mink farming intensity, the predicted prevalence did not change significantly. AMDV infection affected the mink's body condition and caused an increase in the size of the spleen, liver and kidneys. This study shows that Aleutian mink disease strongly affects feral mink but the spatio-temporal variation of its prevalence is complex and partly related to the transmission of the virus from farmed mink to feral populations. The study highlights the complexity of AMDV circulation in feral mink populations and implicates a potential spillover of the virus to native species.