Microbiology 3

Research title:  


Tutor: Prof. Renata Piccinini


Contact details

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tel. 02 503 180


State of the art  

Invasive alien species are one of the major causes of biodiversity loss worldwide and exert a great economic impact on human activities, with an estimated cost of 12 billion of euro/year in Europe. From a sanitary perspective, invasive alien species represent a growing threat to humans, domestic animals and wildlife, due to their potential of introducing new infections or acting as reservoirs for already existing ones, amplifying their circulation. The introduction of invasive alien species shows a constantly increasing trend (+ 76% in Europe between 1970-2007), therefore they represent a growing threat to animal and human health. Three invasive mammals included in the European Priority Intervention List are currently present in Italy: the raccoon (Procyon lotor), the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and the coypu (Mycastor coypu). These species are known to be susceptible to 197, 136 and 44 infectious agents, respectively; and 150, 92 and 17 out of these pathogens have been isolated only in the area of origin. These data highlight the need of an exhaustive investigation on the pathogens infecting invasive alien species in Italy, to define whether new infections have been introduced and verify if the presence of these new hosts affects the epidemiology of pre-existent infections.


Aims of the project 

The project aims to develop laboratory analyses in order to define the main infections occurring in Italian populations of raccoon, grey squirrel and coypu. Animals will be sampled from population control programs and will be monitored for new emerging and zoonotic diseases. Among the bacterial zoonotic diseases also affecting livestock and pets, we will focus on Staphylococcus aureus: the animals will be examined using bacteriological methods and S. aureus strains will be tested for mecA or mecC carriage, characterized by microarray and sequenced, to check the zoonotic risk and/or the possibility to infect other animal species. Analogously, Salmonella spp. will be bacteriologically investigated, while the presence of Leptospira spp., Mycobacterium bovis and paratuberculosis will be tested by PCR. Mycoplasma spp. is an emerging pathogen, able to infect different animal species and survive in the environment, therefore its presence/carriage will be checked by PCR. Regarding viral diseases, distemper, rabies, and West Nile viruses will be particularly investigated, using PCR and serological methods. Chlamydia and Chlamydophila will be considered as well, and their presence checked using molecular methods. The antibacterial susceptibility of microorganisms will be tested using either the Kirby-Bauer method, or PCR to detect the carriage of genes coding for drug resistance. In the case of bacterial or viral diseases outbreak, the three species will be monitored, to detect any spill-over or carriage status.   


Recent publications of the tutor in the field 

1. Piccinini r., Mazzilli m., Zucali m. & Bignami b. (2009).Field study on the potential sources of emerging pathogens in raw milk. EBF 2009, Marsiglia (1-3/12/2009)

2. Piccinini R., Tassi R., Daprà V., Pilla R., Fenner J., Carter B. & Anjum M. (2012). Study of Staphylococcus aureus collected at slaughter from dairy cows with chronic mastitis. J. Dairy Res. 79: 249-55

3. Piccinini R., Gosney F., Snel G.G.M., Luini M.V. & Nicholas R.A.J. (2015). Environmental survival of Mycoplasma bovis on a white veal farm. Vet. Rec. Case Rep. 3: e000207

4. Luini M., Cremonesi P., Magro G., Bianchini V., Minozzi G., Castiglioni B. & Piccinini R. (2015). Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is associated with low within-herd prevalence of intra-mammary infections in dairy cows: Genotyping of isolates. Vet. Microbiol.178 (3-4): 270-274

5. MIOTTO S., Minozzi G., VALLA G. & PICCININI R. (2016). Analysis of reproductive parameters and evaluation of risk factors for Q Fever in dairy herds. Large Animal Rev.22 (3): 109-113