Research – The Occurrence of Cryptosporidium spp. in Wild-Living Carnivores in Poland—A Question Concerning Its Host Specificity



Cryptosporidium is an apicomplexan protozoan parasite that primarily infects the gastrointestinal epithelium in humans and domestic and wild animals. The majority of studies have been focused on human, livestock, and pet infections. Hence, Cryptosporidium spp. in wildlife, including wild carnivores, remained neglected. There are several studies reporting the occurrence of Cryptosporidium spp. in wild foxes, but these are only a few molecular surveys; no data is available concerning the occurrence of this parasite in raccoon dogs and martens in Europe, and to the best of our knowledge to date, only one study has reported Cryptosporidium from badgers in Spain. Therefore, we used molecular analyses to identify and genotype Cryptosporidium spp. in wild-living mesocarnivores in Poland. A total of 322 individual fecal samples from six carnivore species, i.e., raccoon, raccoon dog, red fox, European badger, pine, and beech martens were collected and then analyzed for the presence of Cryptosporidium spp. using the nested PCR method. The appearance of PCR products in the reaction with Cryptosporidium-specific primers against the 18S rRNA and actin genes demonstrated that Cryptosporidium spp. occurred in 23.0% of all examined species of animals. Performed sequence analyses showed the presence of the Cryptosporidium skunk genotype, Cryptosporidium vole genotype II, Cryptosporidium canis dog and fox genotypes, as well as Cryptosporidium erinaceiCryptosporidium ditrichiCryptosporidium suis, and Cryptosporidium alticolis, in these hosts. Molecular data presented here indicate that examined mesocarnivores may be a significant reservoir of specific and non-specific Cryptosporidium species, including those with zoonotic potential. Most studies of carnivores have described the presence of non-specific Cryptosporidium spp. in carnivore hosts, and this is probably the result of the transfer of these parasites from prey species through the digestive tract or the transfer of the parasite from a contaminated environment.

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