Which Zoonosis Will Plague Us Next: Exploring Pathogenic Bacteria and Vira in Danish Wildlife through Large-Scale Analyses of Danish Hedgehogs

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Sophie Lund Rasmussen


DKK 1,119,709




Visiting Fellowships at University of Oxford


Outbreaks of diseases such as COVID-19, SARS and Ebola transferred from animals to humans (zoonoses) have increased in the past decades. Previous research indicate that this phenomenon is the direct result of increased contact between humans, wildlife and livestock, as people move into undeveloped areas and destroy the natural habitats of different wildlife species. Therefore, one of the few methods for safeguarding ourselves against the next pandemic caused by zoonosis is by investigating and monitoring bacteria and vira already present in species of wildlife, which we are likely to come into contact with. This project intends to improve our understanding of future potential zoonotic illnesses in wildlife through a large-scale study of the model species Erinaceus europaeus, the hedgehog.


New pandemics will arise as a direct result of human interference with biodiversity. The results from this project will improve our understanding and monitoring of potential zoonotic transfers between wildlife and humans. The knowledge gained will aid in the overall safeguarding against future epidemics, which will benefit society in general.


I intend to investigate the health of the Danish hedgehog population to improve the conservation of the species and identify specific pathogens with the potential for zoonotic transfers to humans and pets. I will analyse stomach contents, faecal samples and nasal swabs from 697 dead hedgehogs to assess their microbiome (including pathogenic bacteria), food choice and prevalence of Corona virus strains. The samples for this research were obtained during my PhD project "The Danish Hedgehog Project" in 2016, where over 400 volunteers collected the dead hedgehogs from all over Denmark. The investigations will be carried out within the framework of interdisciplinary collaborations with researchers at WildCRU University of Oxford, Aalborg University, University of Copenhagen and SSI.

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