Date of Award

Spring 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Molecular Science and Nanotechnology

First Advisor

William Wolf


Previous studies have demonstrated that feral swine (Sus scofra ) are significant reservoirs for a number of pathogens that present a potential threat to wildlife and humans. Despite this, few studies have gone beyond quantifying the incidence of these pathogens to further probe their ecology within a specific habitat or ecosystem.

Overall, the objective of this study was to characterize three potential reservoirs in a feral swine infested habitat; two ungulates, and one aquatic reservoir. Our study area was the Jackson-Bienville Wildlife Management Area (J-B WMA). We chose four waterborne bacteria: Brucella spp., Leptospira interrogans, Salmonella enterica, and Helicobacter pylori, and two waterborne protozoal pathogens: Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum to assess in the J-B WMA. We developed a straightforward protocol to assess feral hog wallows which we recommend to others as a supplemental benchmark if they study feral swine.

Using PCR, we analyzed whole blood and fecal samples collected from feral swine (N=47) and white-tailed deer (N=49) within the J-B WMA for the following bacterial pathogens: Brucella spp., Leptospira interrogans , and Salmonella enterica, as well as two protozoans:Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum. Sera from feral swine (N=47) and white-tailed deer (N=49) were also collected and tested for Brucella spp. and Leptospira interrogans using the Rose Bengal Test and Microscopic Agglutination Test (MAT) respectively. Feral swine stomach samples (N=16) were collected and tested by PCR for the presence of a fourth bacterial pathogen, Helicobacter pylori, but no positives were documented. Water samples from feral swine wallows (N=20) were also collected and tested for the same pathogens using PCR.

Our results showed a high rate of incidence for each pathogen (except H. pylori) in feral hogs; and all pathogens were found to be present in many wallows as well. White-tailed deer tested positive for each bacterial pathogen, albeit at a lower rate, and none tested positive for either protozoal pathogen. Analysis of feral swine wallows showed they possess physical characteristics compatible with a sustained bacterial and protozoal presence. We have shown that feral swine in the J-B WMA are reservoirs for three bacterial and two protozoal pathogens included irx this study.