Zoonotic and vector-borne pathogens in tigers from a wildlife safari park, Italy

Roberta Iatta, Alda Natale, Silvia Ravagnan, Jairo Mendoza-Roldan, Andrea Zatelli, Maria Alfonsa Cavalera, Yaarit Nachum-Biala, Gad Baneth, Domenico Otranto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Infectious diseases by pathogens, including those of zoonotic concern, may act as a primary or contributory cause of threat to wildlife conservation and may represent a risk for human health, mainly for people working at, or visiting the zoological parks. Given the paucity of data on pathogens infecting wild tigers, we investigated the occurrence of infectious agents in this animal species, with a special focus on those of zoonotic concern. Blood and serum samples from tigers (n = 20) living in a wildlife safari park of southern Italy were screened by serological and molecular tests. All animals scored positive for antibodies against Toxoplasma gondii (100%), whereas they displayed different prevalence of seropositivity for Rickettsia conorii (30%), Bartonella henselae (15%) and Leptospira interrogans sv Icterohaemorrhagiae and/or Leptospira kirschneri sv Grippotyphosa (15%). No antibodies against Coxiella burnetii were detected. In addition, 8 tigers (40%) tested molecularly positive to “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum”, and 3 (15%) to Hepatozoon canis. No DNA of R. conorii, Bartonella spp., Ehrlichia/Anaplasma spp. and piroplasmids was amplified. The occurrence of tiger infections by bacteria and parasites may represent a risk for morbidity and, in some circumstances, mortality in this endangered species and a source of infection for other animals, including humans. These findings indicate that the circulation of zoonotic pathogens such as T. gondii, R. conorii, L. interrogans sv Icterohaemorrhagiae, “Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum” and B. henselae in given environments may represent a relevant health issue considering the close association among animals and humans visiting, or working at, the wildlife safari park. Preventative measures are advocated in order to control ectoparasites and other sources of infection (e.g., small rodents), thus for minimizing the risk of infection for animals as well as for humans.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

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© 2020 The Authors


  • Bartonella henselae
  • Hepatozoon canis
  • Leptospira spp.
  • Tiger
  • Toxoplasma gondii
  • Vector-borne disease
  • Wild felids
  • Zoonotic pathogens


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