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Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases

Print version ISSN 1413-8670


PEDRINI, Sílvia Cristina Barboza et al. Search for Mycobacterium leprae in wild mammals. Braz J Infect Dis [online]. 2010, vol.14, n.1, pp.47-53. ISSN 1413-8670.

Leprosy is still a worldwide public health problem. Brazil and India show the highest prevalence rates of the disease. Natural infection of armadillos Dasypus novemcinctus with Mycobacterium leprae has been reported in some regions of the United States. Identification of bacilli is difficult, particularly due to its inability to grow in vitro. The use of molecular tools represents a fast and sensitive alternative method for diagnosis of mycobacteriosis. In the present study, the diagnostic methods used were bacilloscopy, histopathology, microbiology, and PCR using specific primers for M. leprae repetitive sequences. PCR were performed using genomic DNA extracted from 138 samples of liver, spleen, lymph nodes, and skin of 44 D. novemcinctus, Euphractus sexcinctus, Cabassous unicinctus, and C. tatouay armadillos from the Middle Western region of the state of São Paulo and from the experimental station of Embrapa Pantanal, located in Pantanal da Nhecolândia of Mato Grosso do Sul state. Also, the molecular analysis of 19 samples from internal organs of other road killed species of wild animals, such as Nasua nasua (ring-tailed coati), Procyon cancrivoros (hand-skinned), Cerdocyon thous (dog-pity-bush), Cavia aperea (restless cavy), Didelphis albiventris (skunk), Sphigurrus spinosus (hedgehog), and Gallictis vittata (ferret) showed PCR negative data. None of the 157 analyzed samples had shown natural mycobacterial infection. Only the armadillo inoculated with material collected from untreated multibacillary leprosy patient presented PCR positive and its genomic sequencing revealed 100% identity with M. leprae. According to these preliminary studies, based on the used methodology, it is possible to conclude that wild mammals seem not to play an important role in the epidemiology of leprosy in the Middle Western region of the São Paulo state and in the Pantanal of Mato Grosso do Sul state.

Keywords : Dasypus novemcinctus; Euphractus sexcinctus; Cabassous tatouay; Mycobacterium leprae; eco-epidemiology; wild mammals.

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