Anthropogenic landscape changes contributed to the reduction of availability of habitats to wild animals. Hence, the presence of wild terrestrial carnivores in urban and peri-urban sites has increased considerably over the years implying an increased risk of interspecies spillover of infectious diseases and the transmission of zoonoses. The present study provides a detailed characterisation of the health status of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), stone marten (Martes foina) and raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides) in their natural rural and periurban habitats in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany between November 2013 and January 2016 with focus on zoonoses and infectious diseases that are potentially threatening to other wildlife or domestic animal species. 79 red foxes, 17 stone martens and 10 raccoon dogs were collected from traps or hunts. In order to detect morphological changes and potential infectious diseases, necropsy and pathohistological work-up was performed. Additionally, in selected animals immunohistochemistry (influenza A virus, parvovirus, feline leukemia virus, Borna disease virus, tick-borne encephalitis, canine adenovirus, Neospora caninum, Toxoplasma gondii and Listeria monocytogenes), next-generation sequencing, polymerase chain reaction (fox circovirus) and serum-neutralisation analysis (canine distemper virus) were performed. Furthermore, all animals were screened for fox rabies virus (immunofluorescence), canine distemper virus (immunohistochemistry) and Aujeszky's disease (virus cultivation). The most important findings included encephalitis (n = 16) and pneumonia (n =20). None of the investigations revealed a specific cause for the observed morphological alterations except for one animal with an elevated serum titer of 1:160 for canine distemper. Animals displayed macroscopically and/or histopathologically detectable infections with parasites, including Taenia sp., Toxocara sp. and Alaria alata. In summary, wildlife predators carry zoonotic parasitic disease and suffer from inflammatory diseases of yet unknown etiology, possibly bearing infectious potential for other animal species and humans. This study highlights the value of monitoring terrestrial wildlife following the "One Health" notion, to estimate the incidence and the possible spread of zoonotic pathogens and to avoid animal to animal spillover as well as transmission to humans.

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Journal PLoS ONE
Grant This work was funded by the European Commission 7th Framework Programme; grant id h2020/643476 - COllaborative Management Platform for detection and Analyses of (Re-)emerging and foodborne outbreaks in Europe (COMPARE)
Lempp, C, Jungwirth, A, Grilo, M.L. (Miguel L.), Reckendorf, A. (Anja), Ulrich, A. (Arlena), Van Neer, A. (Abbo), … Siebert, U. (2017). Pathological findings in the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), stone marten (Martes foina) and raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides), with special emphasis on infectious and zoonotic agents in Northern Germany. PLoS ONE, 12(4). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0175469