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Acta Trop. 2015 Oct;150:42-51. doi: 10.1016/j.actatropica.2015.06.009. Epub 2015 Jun 15.

Natural infection of Algerian hedgehog, Atelerix algirus (Lereboullet 1842) with Leishmania parasites in Tunisia.

Author information

1
Laboratoire d'Epidémiologie Moléculaire et Pathologie Expérimentale Appliquée aux Maladies Infectieuses (LR11IPT04), Institut Pasteur de Tunis, Université Tunis el Manar, Tunis, Tunisia.
2
Laboratoire d'Epidémiologie Moléculaire et Pathologie Expérimentale Appliquée aux Maladies Infectieuses (LR11IPT04), Institut Pasteur de Tunis, Université Tunis el Manar, Tunis, Tunisia. Electronic address: souheila.guerbouj@pasteur.rns.tn.

Abstract

In Tunisia, Leishmania parasites are responsible of visceral leishmaniasis, caused by Leishmania infantum species while three cutaneous disease forms are documented: chronic cutaneous leishmaniasis due to Leishmania killicki, sporadic cutaneous form (SCL) caused by L. infantum and the predominant zoonotic cutaneous leishmanaisis (ZCL) due to Leishmania major. ZCL reservoirs are rodents of the Psammomys and Meriones genera, while for SCL the dog is supposed to be a reservoir. Ctenodactylus gundii is involved in the transmission of L. killicki. However, other mammals could constitute potential reservoir hosts in Tunisia and other North African countries. In order to explore the role of hedgehogs as potential reservoirs of leishmaniasis, specimens (N=6) were captured during July-November period in 2011-2013 in an SCL endemic area in El Kef region, North-Western Tunisia. Using morphological characteristics, all specimens were described and measured. Biopsies from liver, heart, kidney and spleen of each animal were used to extract genomic DNA, which was further used in PCR assays to assess the presence of Leishmania parasites. Different PCRs targeting kinetoplast minicircles, ITS1, mini-exon genes and a repetitive Leishmania- specific sequence, were applied. To further identify Leishmania species involved, RFLP analysis of amplified fragments was performed with appropriate restriction enzymes. Using morphological characters, animals were identified as North African hedgehogs, also called Algerian hedgehogs, that belong to the Erinaceidae family, genus Atelerix Pomel 1848, and species algirus (Lereboullet, 1842). PCR results showed in total that all specimens were Leishmania infected, with different organs incriminated, mainly liver and spleen. Results were confirmed by direct sequencing of amplified fragments. Species identification showed that all specimens were infected with L. major, three of which were additionally co-infected with L. infantum. The present study demonstrates, for the first time in Tunisia, natural infection of hedgehog animals (Atelerix algirus) by the Leishmania parasites species L. major and L. infantum. L. major is also detected for the first time in wild animals captured in the North Western part of the country; likewise for the co-infection of these animals by the 2 Leishmania species. This mammal could play a potential reservoir role in epidemiology of SCL or ZCL and could contribute to emergence or extension of ZCL in the studied region.

KEYWORDS:

Hedgehog; Leishmania; PCR–RFLP; Reservoir host; Tunisia; natural infection

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