Study of the epidemiology of Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. suis in abattoir swine in Portugal.
ABSTRACT Pneumocystis has been identified in various mammalian species, including domestic, wild and zoo animals. This study's main objectives were: (1) to estimate the prevalence of the Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. suis infection in slaughtered pigs in Portugal, (2) assess the prevalence differences within distinct age groups of animals, (3) determine the possible associations between pulmonary lesions and the infection, and (4) genetically characterize the P. carinii f. sp. suis isolates recovered from infected animals using PCR with DNA sequencing. An epidemiological cross-sectional study was conducted using 215 pig lung tissue samples which demonstrated a global prevalence of 7% (14 positive samples). This value was later validated by statistical analysis as being representative of the national population prevalence. Regarding the assessment of relations between the different variables investigated during the study (age, gender, geographical region, type of farming, weight and pulmonary lesion) and the P. carinii f. sp. suis infection, no significant statistical differences were found, and apparently, no predisposing factors could be defined. Nevertheless, infection by Pneumocystis in pigs is ubiquitous and it can be detected in healthy animals. Thus, the colonization of P. carinii f. sp. suis among healthy individuals suggests that asymptomatic carriers can be an effective reservoir for susceptible animals and participate in the transmission of infection. The present data confirmed that porcine Pneumocystis is genetically distinct from Pneumocystis DNA detected in other mammalian hosts.