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N Z Vet J. 2009 Oct;57(5):284-9. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2009.58622.

A study of neonatal cryptosporidiosis of foals in New Zealand.

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Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.



To assess the occurrence of Cryptosporidium oocysts in faecal specimens from foals, and investigate an outbreak of neonatal cryptosporidiosis in foals revealed in the course of the study.


Faecal specimens from foals received by a diagnostic veterinary laboratory in New Zealand between 2006 and 2007 were submitted to Massey University and tested microscopically for the presence of Cryptosporidium oocysts. The Cryptosporidium isolates in the oocyst-positive specimens were genetically identified to species level. In addition, specimen submission data from the participating laboratory for 2005-2007 were examined. In the course of the study, the identification of one Cryptosporidium-positive specimen triggered an on-farm investigation.


Twelve faecal specimens submitted by the participating laboratory between 2006 and 2007 were tested further, and three were positive for C. parvum. Specimen submission records indicated a total of 67 faecal specimens were tested for Cryptosporidium by the participating laboratory between 2005 and 2007; 12 (18%) were positive. The on-farm investigation on a broodmare farm revealed a high incidence of neonatal diarrhoea in foals; C. parvum was the only enteropathogen found in the faeces of 4/4 affected foals examined. The diarrhoea in all those foals was self-limiting, manifesting during the second week of life, resembling foal heat diarrhoea, and accompanied by a short but intense period of shedding oocysts.


The fact that Cryptosporidium parasites were identified in 18% of faecal specimens from foals analysed for this agent in 2005-2007 by the participating laboratory indicated that infection with this agent in foals is not uncommon. Collectively, the results of this and previous studies performed in New Zealand indicate C. parvum is a cause of diarrhoea in newborn foals, potentially accounting for a proportion of cases empirically diagnosed as foal heat diarrhoea. It is therefore advisable to take precautions when handling diarrhoeic foals, until this potentially zoonotic agent is ruled out in the laboratory.

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