Stress-Related Herpesvirus Reactivation in Badgers Can Result in Clostridium Proliferation
Tsai MS., Newman C., Macdonald DW., Buesching CD.
Clostridium perfringens is an important food-borne zoonotic pathogen and a member of the commensal gut microbiome of many mammals. Predisposing factors such as coinfection with other pathogens or diet change can, however, cause overgrowth and subsequent disease development. Here we investigated the occurrence of C. perfringens in a free-ranging badger population with up to 100% prevalence of herpesvirus infection. Herpesvirus reactivation is known to be associated with increased susceptibility bacterial infections. PCR screening of rectal swabs from 69 free-ranging badgers revealed 15.9% (11/69, 95% CI = 9.1–26.3%) prevalence of detectable C. perfringens (Type A) DNA in the digestive tracts of assymptomatic animals. The results of Fisher’s exact test revealed C. perfringens detection was not biased by age, sex and seasons. However, badgers with genital tract gammaherpesvirus (MusGHV-1) reactivation (p = 0.007) and infection with a specific MusGHV-1 genotype (p = 0.019) were more prone to of C. perfringens proliferation, indicating coinfection biased dynamics of intestinal C. perfringens. An inclusion pattern analysis further indicated that, causally, MusGHV-1 reactivation potentiated C. perfringens detection. Whether or not specific MusGHV-1 genotype infection or reactivation plays a role in C. perfringens overgrowth or disease development in badgers will require further investigation. Nevertheless, a postmortem examination of a single badger that died of fatal disease, likely associated with C. perfringens, revealed MusGHV-1 detection in the small intestine.