Institute for Fish and Wildlife Health

Dr. med. vet. Pisano, Simone

Sarcoptic mange in free-ranging wildlife

Sarcoptic mange is a contagious skin disease affecting mammals and caused by Sarcoptes scabiei mites, which live in the uppermost keratinized skin layer. The disease has been reported almost all over the world and is characterized by hair loss and crusts. In Switzerland, several wildlife species are affected by sarcoptic mange, mainly in carnivores, in particular red foxes. Sarcoptic mange was also reported in wild boar but it has never been found in wild ruminants (alpine chamois, alpine ibex, red deer and roe deer), unlike in other European countries.

The FIWI has been monitoring and conducting research on sarcoptic mange in wildlife since 2000. Various complementary approaches have been used to provide information on the occurrence, the temporal and spatial spread, the host spectrum, the ecology and the pathology of the disease as well as the inter-species transmission (including zoonotic transmission from animals to humans) and genetics of Sarcoptes scabiei mites.

For these purposes, the FIWI works in close cooperation with other institutions, namely the dermatology department of the Tierspital Bern (Vetsuisse Faculty), as well as the Stiftung KORA (Carnivore Ecology and Wildlife Management, Muri bei Bern), the University of Turin and the IZSVe (Institute for Animal Disease Control of the Venezie, Trento) in Italy. The approaches used include an extensive historical literature search in different languages, pathological examinations, an analysis of archived section reports, genetic examinations, serological examinations, annual questionnaire surveys to the game warden and hunters, and evaluation of camera-trap photographs.

Currently, we are preparing an overview of the host spectrum of sarcoptic mange in wildlife in Switzerland including the genetic analysis of mites isolated from wildlife. These studies will allow us to understand how sarcoptic mites from different animal species are linked. Moreover, serological analyses (detection of antibodies against sarcoptic mites in blood) are carried out on chamois and ibex from all over Switzerland. The aim of theses analyses is to determine whether these species have been into contact with sarcoptic mites during their lifetime without showing clinical signs.

Project lead: Simone Pisano, Marie-Pierre Ryser