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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2006 Jul;72(7):4540-4.

Microsporidian species known to infect humans are present in aquatic birds: implications for transmission via water?

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  • 1Departmetn of Biology and Medical Parasitology, Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poznan, Poland.


Human microsporidiosis, a serious disease of immunocompetent and immunosuppressed people, can be due to zoonotic and environmental transmission of microsporidian spores. A survey utilizing conventional and molecular techniques for examining feces from 570 free-ranging, captive, and livestock birds demonstrated that 21 animals shed microsporidian spores of species known to infect humans, including Encephalitozoon hellem (20 birds; 3.5%) and Encephalitozoon intestinalis (1 bird; 0.2%). Of 11 avian species that shed E. hellem and E. intestinalis, 8 were aquatic birds (i.e., common waterfowl). The prevalence of microsporidian infections in waterfowl (8.6%) was significantly higher than the prevalence of microsporidian infections in other birds (1.1%) (P < 0.03); waterfowl fecal droppings contained significantly more spores (mean, 3.6 x 10(5) spores/g) than nonaquatic bird droppings contained (mean, 4.4 x 10(4) spores/g) (P < 0.003); and the presence of microsporidian spores of species known to infect humans in fecal samples was statistically associated with the aquatic status of the avian host (P < 0.001). We demonstrated that a single visit of a waterfowl flock can introduce into the surface water approximately 9.1 x 10(8) microsporidian spores of species known to infect humans. Our findings demonstrate that waterborne microsporidian spores of species that infect people can originate from common waterfowl, which usually occur in large numbers and have unlimited access to surface waters, including waters used for production of drinking water.

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