Comparison of bacterial culture and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the detection of F. tularensis subsp. holarctica in wild animals

Berl Munch Tierarztl Wochenschr. Jul-Aug 2013;126(7-8):285-90.


Detection of the zoonotic pathogen Francisella tularensis subsp. holarctica (EF tularensis) in wild animals with culture techniques as well as polymerase chain reaction were compared and discussed on the basis of the investigation of 60 animals. The samples originated from 55 European brown hares (Lepus europaeus), two red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and one each from a wild rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), a European beaver (Castor fiber), and a lemur (Lemur catta). When comparing the growth of 28 F. tularensis isolates on the cysteine blood agar and the modified Martin-Lewis-agar used in this study, cultivation was successful for 26 isolates on both media, but for two isolates only on the cysteine blood agar. Out of 43 carcasses 19 tested positive in bacteriological culture and PCR. Two culture positive samples of tonsils originating from foxes could not be confirmed by PCR, although PCR was positive in 22 samples that missed growth of F. tularensis. Comparative studies on cultural detection of E. tularensis were performed on samples of 16 hares from lung, spleen, liver and gut and in one case with a peritoneal swab. In at least one of these localizations cultivation of the pathogen was successful. Detection rate was reduced to 94% (15 of 16 hares) considering only the results of the cultures of the lungs and spleens. For a sensitive and rapid detection of F. tularensis subsp. holarctica, the PCR is a suitable method thereby avoiding hazardous multiplying of the pathogen. However, cultivation of F. tularensis is often a prerequisite for further studies on antibiotic resistance patterns of the pathogen, molecular epidemiological and pathological analyses of tularaemia.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / microbiology*
  • Culture Media
  • Culture Techniques / veterinary*
  • Foxes
  • Francisella tularensis / genetics
  • Francisella tularensis / growth & development
  • Francisella tularensis / isolation & purification*
  • Germany
  • Hares
  • Lemur
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / veterinary*
  • Rabbits
  • Rodentia
  • Tularemia / diagnosis
  • Tularemia / microbiology
  • Tularemia / veterinary*


  • Culture Media