Longitudinal investigation of protozoan parasites in meat lamb farms in southern Western Australia.

School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, Western Australia 6150, Australia.
Preventive Veterinary Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.39). 09/2011; 101(3-4):192-203. DOI: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2011.05.016
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT In this study, 96 faecal samples were collected from pregnant Merino ewes, at two broad-acre, commercial sheep farms in southern Western Australia, on two separate occasions (16 and 2 weeks prior to lambing). Following lambing, 111 (Farm A) and 124 (Farm B) female crossbred lambs (2-6 weeks old), were individually identified using ear tags (a numbered tag and a radio-frequency tag). A total of 1155 faecal samples were collected only from these individually identified lambs on five separate sampling occasions. All samples were screened using PCR to detect Cryptosporidium (18S rRNA and actin loci) and Giardia duodenalis (glutamate dehydrogenase and triosephosphate isomerise loci). The overall prevalences (lambs positive for a parasite on at least one of the five samplings) at Farm A and B were 81.3% and 71.4%, respectively for Cryptosporidium and similarly 67.3% and 60.5% for Giardia, respectively. Cryptosporidium and Giardia prevalences at individual samplings ranged between 18.5 and 42.6% in lambs and were <10% in the ewes. Cryptosporidium xiaoi was the most prevalent species detected at all five samplings and was also isolated from lamb dam water on Farm B. Cryptosporidium ubiquitum was most commonly detected in younger lambs and Cryptosporidium parvum was detected in lambs at all five samplings, typically in older lambs and as part of a mixed species infection with C. xiaoi. A novel, possibly new genotype (sheep genotype I), was identified in six Cryptosporidium isolates from Farm B. Giardia duodenalis assemblage E was the most common genotype detected at all five samplings, with greater proportions of assemblage A and mixed assemblage A and E infections identified in older lambs. This longitudinal study identified high overall prevalences of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in lambs grazed extensively on pastures, while reinforcing that sampling a random selection of animals from a flock/herd on one occasion (point prevalence), underestimates the overall prevalence of these parasites in the flock/herd across an extended time period. Based on these findings, grazing lambs were identified as a low risk source of zoonotic Cryptosporidium and Giardia species/genotypes, with these protozoa detected at all five samplings in some lambs, indicating that these individuals were either unable to clear the naturally acquired protozoan infections or were repeatedly re-infected from their environment or other flock members.

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    ABSTRACT: A novel quantitative PCR (qPCR) for Giardia at the glutamate dehydrogenase (gdh) locus was developed and validated. The qPCR was used to screen a total of 3,412 lamb faecal samples collected from approximately 1,189 lambs at three sampling periods (weaning, post-weaning and pre-slaughter) from eight farms across South Australia (SA), New South Wales (NSW), Victoria (Vic) and Western Australia (WA). The overall prevalence was 20.2% (95% CI 18.9-21.6) and of the 690 positives, 473 were successfully typed. In general, the prevalence of Giardia varied widely across the different farms with the highest prevalence in one WA farm (42.1%) at pre-slaughter sampling and the lowest prevalence in one Victorian farm (7.2%) at weaning. The range of cyst shedding at weaning, post-weaning and pre-slaughter overall across all states was 63 - 1.3 x 10(9) cysts g(-1) (median = 1.7 x 10(4)), 63 - 1.1 x 10(9) cysts g(-1) (median = 9.6 x 10(3)), 63 - 4.7 x 10(9) cysts g(-1) (median = 8.1 x 10(4)) respectively. Assemblage specific primers at the triose phosphate isomerase (tpi) locus identified assemblage A in 22.4% (106/473) of positive samples typed, assemblage E in 75.9% (359/473) and mixed A and E assemblages in 1.7% (8/473) of samples. A subset of representative samples from the 8 farms (n=32) were typed at both the gdh and beta-giardin loci and confirmed these results and identified sub-assemblage AII in 16 representative assemblage A isolates across the 8 farms. This demonstrates a prevalence of Giardia previously not recognised in Australian sheep, highlighting a need for further research to quantify the production impacts of this protozoan parasite.
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