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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