Mycobacterium microti Infection (Vole Tuberculosis) in Wild Rodent Populations

R. Cavanagh, M. Begon, M. Bennett, T. Ergon, Isla Margaret Graham, P. E. W. de Haas, C. A. Hart, M. Koedam, Xavier Lambin, P. Roholl, D. van Soolingen

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76 Citations (Scopus)


Mycobacterium microti (vole tuberculosis) infections in small wild mammals were first described more than 60 years ago in several populations in Great Britain. Few studies of vole tuberculosis have been undertaken since then, and little is known about the relationship between M. microti isolates originating from different populations or at different times or of the prevalence of this infection in wild rodent populations, despite human cases of M. microti infections being increasingly reported. In this study, field votes (Microtus agrestis), bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus), and wood mice (Apodemus sylvaticus) were found to be infected, with up to 8% having external tuberculous signs, in wild populations in Northumberland and Cheshire, England. Spoligotyping applied directly to the clinical material simultaneously detected and typed M.. microti bacteria in skin lesions, lymph glands, and internal abcesses. IS6110 restriction fragment length polymorphism typing of cultured bacteria was used to compare these isolates with previously isolated strains from both animals and humans. This demonstrated that although the current rodent isolates were distinct from those isolated from voles in the 1930s in Great Britain, they had a high degree of similarity to these strains and were distinct from the M. microti isolates from humans, a pig, and a ferret from The Netherlands. Thus, M. microti infection seems to be widespread in wild rodent populations, but more studies are needed to understand how M. microti might be transmitted from animals to humans and to determine better the zoonotic risk posed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3281-3285
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Microbiology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2002


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