Epidemiology and Infection

Original Papers


Tularaemia seroprevalence of captured and wild animals in Germany: the fox (Vulpes vulpes) as a biological indicator

A. KUEHNa1a2, C. SCHULZEa3, P. KUTZERa3, C. PROBSTa4, A. HLINAKa3, A. OCHSa5 and R. GRUNOWa1 c1

a1 Robert Koch-Institut, Centre for Biological Security 2, Berlin, Germany

a2 Helmholtz Zentrum Muenchen, Research Unit of Molecular Epidemiology, Neuherberg, Germany

a3 Landeslabor Berlin-Brandenburg, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany

a4 Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute, Institute of Epidemiology, Wusterhausen, Germany

a5 Zoo Berlin AG, Berlin, Germany


A total of 2475 animals from Germany, both captive and wild, were tested for antibodies against Francisella tularensis to obtain more knowledge about the presence of this pathogen in Germany. An indirect and a competitive ELISA served as screening methods, positive and inconclusive samples were confirmed by Western blot. Of the zoo animals sampled between 1992 and 2007 (n = 1122), three (0·3%) were seropositive. The seroconversion of a hippopotamus in Berlin Zoo was documented. From 1353 serum samples of wild foxes (Vulpes vulpes), raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides) and wild boars (Sus scrofa), collected between 2005 and 2009 in the federal state of Brandenburg (surrounding Berlin), a total of 101 (7·5%) tested positive for antibodies to F. tularensis lipopolysaccharide. Our results indicate a higher seroprevalence of F. tularensis in wildlife in eastern Germany than commonly assumed. Furthermore, we found foxes and raccoon dogs to be biological indicators for tularaemia.

(Received November 29 2011)

(Revised March 21 2012)

(Accepted April 26 2012)

(Online publication July 17 2012)

Key words

  • Serology;
  • zoonoses


c1 Author for correspondence: PD Dr. R. Grunow, Centre for Biological Security 2, Robert Koch-Institut, Nordufer 20, D-13353 Berlin, Germany. (Email: GrunowR@rki.de)