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Vet Parasitol. 2007 May 15;146(1-2):17-24. Epub 2007 Mar 1.

Prevalence and molecular characterization of Cryptosporidium and Giardia species and genotypes in sheep in Maryland.

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Environmental Microbial Safety Laboratory, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Building 173, BARC-East, 10300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD 20705, USA.


In the United Kingdom and Australia sheep have been implicated as sources of Cryptosporidium and Giardia that infect humans, but no such studies have been conducted in North America. Therefore, a study was undertaken to investigate the prevalence of these parasites in sheep on a farm in Maryland. Feces were collected from 32 pregnant ewes 1, 2, and 3 days after parturition and from each of their lambs 7, 14, and 21 days after birth. The presence of Cryptosporidium oocysts and Giardia cysts was determined by both immunofluorescence microscopy and PCR/gene sequence analysis. PCR was consistently more sensitive than microscopy. The prevalence, by PCR, of Cryptosporidium in ewes and lambs was 25 and 77.4%, respectively. Three species/genotypes of Cryptosporidium were identified: C. parvum, a novel C. bovis-like genotype, and Cryptosporidium cervine genotype. Cryptosporidium parvum and the cervine genotype have been reported worldwide in human infections. The novel C. bovis-like genotype is reported here for the first time. The prevalence of Giardia in ewes and lambs was 12 and 4%, respectively. Most infections were Assemblage E which is not zoonotic; however, one ewe was infected with zoonotic Assemblage A. The identification of only two lambs infected with C. parvum and one ewe infected with G. duodenalis Assemblage A suggests a low prevalence of these zoonoses. However, the high prevalence of the zoonotic cervine genotype indicates that sheep should be considered a potential environmental source of this human pathogen.

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