Enriched environments normally increase behavioral repertoires and diminish the expression of abnormal behaviors and stress-related physiological problems in animals. Although it has been shown that experimental animals infected with microorganisms can modify their behaviors and physiology, few studies have evaluated how environmental enrichment affects these parameters. This study aimed to evaluate the effects of environmental enrichment on the behavior and physiology of confined mice infected with Trypanosoma cruzi.
The behaviors of 20 T. cruzi-infected mice and 20 non-infected mice were recorded during three treatments: baseline, enrichment, and post-enrichment. Behavioral data were collected using scan sampling with instantaneous recording of behavior every 30s, totaling 360h. Plasma TNF, CCL2, and IL-10 levels and parasitemia were also evaluated in infected enriched/non-enriched mice. Behavioral data were evaluated by Friedman’s test and physiological data by one-way ANOVA and area under the curve (AUC) analysis.
Results showed that environmental enrichment significantly increased exploratory behaviors and diminished inactivity. The use of environmental enrichment did not diminish circulating levels of TNF and IL-10 but diminished circulating levels of CCL2 and parasitemia.
Positive behavioral and physiological effects of environmental enrichment were observed in mice living in enriched cages. Thus, environmental enrichment improved the welfare of these animals.
Chagas disease; Inflammation; Laboratory animals; Welfare