Tuberculosis (Mycobacterium microti) in wild field vole populations

S. Burthe, M. Bennett, A. Kipar, X. Lambin, A. Smith, S. Telfer, M. Begon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

40 Citations (Scopus)


Vole tuberculosis (TB; Mycobacterium microti) is an understudied endemic infection. Despite progressing slowly, it causes severe clinical pathology and overt symptoms in its rodent host. TB was monitored for 2 years in wild field voles in Kielder Forest, UK. The prevalence of characteristic cutaneous TB lesions was monitored longitudinally at 4 sites, with individuals live-trapped and repeatedly monitored. A prevalence of 5-20% of individuals with lesions was recorded (n = 2791). In a cross-sectional study, 27 sites were monitored bi-annually, with TB assessed by post-mortem examination for macroscopic lesions, and by culture and histopathology. Seventy-nine voles (10-78 %; n = 733) were positive for mycobacteria, with the highest prevalence in spring (13.15%; n = 327). TB prevalence varied, with between 0% and 50% of voles infected per site. Prevalence increased with age (mass), and apparent seasonality was due to a higher proportion of older animals in spring. Survival analysis supported this result, with cutaneous lesions only manifesting in the advanced stages of infection, and therefore only being found on older voles. The body condition of individuals with lesions declined at the time when the lesion was first recorded, when compared to individuals without lesions, suggesting there may bean acute phase of infection during its advanced stage. Although predicted survival following the appearance of a cutaneous lesion was lower than for uninfected individuals, this was not significant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-317
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Early online date16 Nov 2007
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


  • endemic pathogen
  • Microtus agrestis
  • longitudinal
  • TB
  • survival
  • wildlife disease
  • cyclic populations
  • marked animals
  • dynamics
  • complex
  • differentiation
  • identification
  • predation
  • diagnosis
  • agrestis


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