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PeerJ. 2016 Jun 1;4:e2065. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2065. eCollection 2016.

Snapshot fecal survey of domestic animals in rural Ghana for Mycobacterium ulcerans.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne at the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity , Melbourne , Australia.
Department of Bacteriology, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana , Legon , Ghana.
Department of Bacteriology, Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana; School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Science, Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom.
Department of Biology, Millersville University of Pennsylvania , Millersville, PA , United States.


Identifying the source reservoirs of Mycobacterium ulcerans is key to understanding the mode of transmission of this pathogen and controlling the spread of Buruli ulcer (BU). In Australia, the native possum can harbor M. ulcerans in its gastrointestinal tract and shed high concentrations of the bacteria in its feces. To date, an analogous animal reservoir in Africa has not been identified. Here we tested the hypothesis that common domestic animals in BU endemic villages of Ghana are reservoir species analogous to the Australian possum. Using linear-transects at 10-meter intervals, we performed systematic fecal surveys across four BU endemic villages and one non-endemic village in the Asante Akim North District of Ghana. One hundred and eighty fecal specimens from a single survey event were collected and analyzed by qPCR for the M. ulcerans diagnostic DNA targets IS2404 and KR-B. Positive and negative controls performed as expected but all 180 test samples were negative. This structured snapshot survey suggests that common domestic animals living in and around humans do not shed M. ulcerans in their feces. We conclude that, unlike the Australian native possum, domestic animals in rural Ghana are unlikely to be major reservoirs of M. ulcerans.


Buruli ulcer; Environmental sampling; Mycobacterium ulcerans; qPCR

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