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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2005 Jun;71(6):3153-7.

First detection and genotyping of human-associated microsporidia in pigeons from urban parks.

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Laboratorio de Genética, Universidad San Pablo-CEU, Boadilla del Monte, Madrid, Spain.


Microsporidia are ubiquitous opportunistic parasites in nature infecting all animal phyla, and the zoonotic potential of this parasitosis is under discussion. Fecal samples from 124 pigeons from seven parks of Murcia (Spain) were analyzed. Thirty-six of them (29.0%) showed structures compatible with microsporidia spores by staining methods. The DNA isolated from 26 fecal samples (20.9%) of microsporidia-positive pigeons was amplified with specific primers for the four most frequent human microsporidia. Twelve pigeons were positive for only Enterocytozoon bieneusi (9.7%), 5 for Encephalitozoon intestinalis (4%), and one for Encephalitozoon hellem (0.8%). Coinfections were detected in eight additional pigeons: E. bieneusi and E. hellem were detected in six animals (4.8%); E. bieneusi was associated with E. intestinalis in one case (0.8%); and E. hellem and E. intestinalis coexisted in one pigeon. No positive samples for Encephalitozoon cuniculi were detected. The internally transcribed spacer genotype could be completed for one E. hellem-positive pigeon; the result was identical to the genotype A1 previously characterized in an E. hellem Spanish strain of human origin. To our knowledge, this is the first time that human-related microsporidia have been identified in urban park pigeons. Moreover, we can conclude that there is no barrier to microsporidia transmission between park pigeons and humans for E. intestinalis and E. hellem. This study is of environmental and sanitary interest, because children and elderly people constitute the main visitors of parks and they are populations at risk for microsporidiosis. It should also contribute to the better design of appropriate prophylactic measures for populations at risk for opportunistic infections.

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