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Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. | doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2018.00215

Molecular survey of tularemia and plague in small mammals from Iran

 Ehsan Mostafavi1, 2*, Ahmad Ghasemi1, 2, 3,  Mahdi Rohani1, 4,  Leila Molaeipoor2,  Saber Esmaeili1, 2, 3,  Zeinolabedin Mohammadi5,  Ahmad Mahmoudi1, 2, 5, Mansour Aliabadian5 and  Anders Johansson6
  • 1National Reference laboratory for Plague, Tularemia and Q fever, Research Centre for Emerging and Reemerging infectious diseases, Pasteur Institute of Iran, Iran
  • 2Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Research Centre for Emerging and Reemerging infectious diseases, Pasteur Institute of Iran, Iran
  • 3Department of Bacteriology, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Tarbiat Modares University, Iran
  • 4Department of Microbiology, Pasteur Institute of Iran, Iran
  • 5Rodentology Research Department, Applied Animal Institute, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran
  • 6Department of Clinical Microbiology and the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden, Umeå University, Sweden

Introduction: Plague and tularemia are zoonoses and their causative bacteria are circulating in certain regions of Iran. This study was conducted to investigate potential disease reservoirs amongst small wildlife species in different regions of Iran.

Methods: Rodents, insectivores and hares from seventeen different provinces of the country were collected in 2014 and 2015. Samples were taken from the spleens of the animals and Real-time PCR was applied to detect nucleic acid sequences that are specific to Francisella tularensis and Yersinia pestis, respectively.

Results: Among 140 collected rodents, 25 distinct species were identified out of which five were the most common: Microtus paradoxus (21% out of 140 rodents), Apodemus witherbyi (12%), Microtus irani (11%), Mus musculus (11%) and Microtus socialis (10%). Seventeen insectivores were collected and identified as Crocidura suaveolens (82%) and C. leucodon (18%). Fifty-one hares were collected and identified as Lepus europaeus (57%), Lepus tolai (14%) and Lepus sp. (29%). Three out of 140 rodents (1.91%) tested positive for F. tularensis, an A. witherbyi, a Mus macedonicus, and a Chionomys nivalis collected from Golestan, Khuzestan and Razavi Khorasan provinces, respectively. Two hares (3.92%) were F. tularensis-positive, a L. europaeus from Khuzestan and a Lepus sp. from the Sistan and Baluchistan province. None of the animals tested positive for Y. pestis.

Conclusion: This is the first report of direct detection of F. tularensis in mammals of Iran and the first-time observation of the agent in a snow vole, C. nivalis worldwide. The results indicate that tularemia is more widespread in Iran than previously reported including the Northeast and Southwestern parts of the country. Future studies should address genetic characterization of F. tularensis positive DNA samples from Iran to achieve molecular subtyping and rule out assay cross-reactivity with near neighbor Francisella species.

Keywords: Tularemia, Plague, Hares, Rodentia, Insectivora

Received: 06 Feb 2018; Accepted: 07 Jun 2018.

Edited by:

Daniel E. Voth, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, United States

Reviewed by:

Andrey P. Anisimov, State Research Center for Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Russia
Roger D. Pechous, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Mostafavi, Ghasemi, Rohani, Molaeipoor, Esmaeili, Mohammadi, Mahmoudi, Aliabadian and Johansson. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: DVM, PhD. Ehsan Mostafavi, Pasteur Institute of Iran, National Reference laboratory for Plague, Tularemia and Q fever, Research Centre for Emerging and Reemerging infectious diseases, Tehran, Hamadan, Iran, mostafaviehsan@gmail.com