Occurrence of Zoonotic Pathogens in the European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) in an Urban Setting
2018 Joint EAZWV/AAZV/Leibniz-IZW Conference
Maximilian Reuschel1, DVM; Silke Braune2, Dr Med Vet; Thea Louise Prüfer2, Dr Med Vet; Andreas Moss3, Dr Med Vet; Rainer G. Ulrich4, Dr; Michael Fehr1, Prof, Dr Med Vet, DECZM; Martin Runge2, Prof, Dr
1Clinic for Small Mammals, Reptiles, and Birds, University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation, Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany; 2Food and Veterinary Institute Braunschweig/Hannover, Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (LAVES), Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany; 3Food and Veterinary Institute Oldenburg, Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (LAVES), Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, Germany; 4Institute of Novel and Emerging Infectious Diseases, Friedrich-Loeffler-Institut, Federal Research Institute for Animal Health, Greifswald-Insel Riems, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany


Hedgehog home territories are shrinking in urban and rural areas leading to an increase in population densities and the number of animals living in gardens and parks frequented by humans.2 As a consequence, hedgehogs are coming into contact with humans directly when weak animals are found and cared for and indirectly via feces encountered during gardening, posing a risk for transmission of zoonotic agents. Outbreaks of hedgehog-related salmonellosis in humans have been reported in Norway,1 however, minimal information exists about pathogen prevalence in German free-ranging hedgehogs. The goal of this study was to determine if free-ranging hedgehogs in Germany impose a zoonotic risk. The study population included 100 free-ranging hedgehogs which were brought to a veterinary hospital for care and were humanely euthanized or died. Animals were necropsied and organ specimens were screened for infectious pathogens by culture and molecular methods. Listeria spp., Leptospira spp., Escherichia coli, and Salmonella spp. were each identified in approximately 20% of hedgehogs. Chlamydia spp., Yersinia spp., and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was identified in lower percentages. Influenza A virus, Francisella tularensis, Coxiella burnetii, and mycobacteria were not detected in any specimen. Our results indicate that hedgehogs in Germany could carry several pathogens with particularly high zoonotic risk to humans.

Literature Cited

1.  Handeland K, Refsum T, Johansen BS, Holstad G, Knutsen G, Solberg I, Schulze J, Kapperud G. Prevalence of Salmonella typhimurium infection in Norwegian hedgehog populations associated with two human disease outbreaks. Epidemiol Infect. 2002;128:523–527.

2.  Pettett CE, Moorhouse TP, Johnson PJ, Macdonald DW. Factors affecting hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) attraction to rural villages in arable landscapes. Eur J Wildl Res. 2017;63:54.


Speaker Information
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Maximilian Reuschel, DVM
Clinic for Small Mammals, Reptiles, and Birds
University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover
Hannover, Lower Saxony, Germany

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