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Vet Parasitol. 2011 Jun 30;179(1-3):234-7. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2011.02.007. Epub 2011 Feb 15.

Encephalitozoonosis in New Zealand rabbits and potential transmission risk.

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Refik Saydam Public Health Agency, 06100 Ankara, Turkey. ozcanozkan


Encephalitozoon cuniculi is a small protozoan parasite in the phylum Microspora. It has been shown to naturally infect several host species, including humans. Encephalitozoonosis is routinely diagnosed in vivo by serological examination or post mortem by histopathology. In a conventional rabbit colony, two animals suddenly showed clinical signs (torticollis and asthenia of limbs). Serum samples of these rabbits were seropositive for E. cuniculi after definitive diagnosis (Toxoplasma gondii and Listeria monocytogenes). The animals in the same breeding facility were also clinical examined, and the present study evaluated the prevalence of specific anti-E. cuniculi antibodies using serological testing, both in animals and in people working with animals, after two clinical cases. The rabbits showed no clinical symptoms of the disease. Blood samples were taken for E. cuniculi infection from 50 clinically healthy rabbits. Anti-E. cuniculi antibodies were found in two asymptomatic and two clinically affected animals belonging to the same rabbit colony. Finally, the present study found that the 7.7% (4/52) prevalence of CIA, test positive in rabbits. E. cuniculi spores were detected in the urine of one clinically affected rabbit, and one seropositive animal caretaker after staining with the modified trichrome stain. In conclusion, the presence of seropositive, but apparently healthy rabbits indicates the need for screening examinations to detect the anti-E. cuniculi antibody in rabbits, especially considering the potential zoonotic risk. Therefore, persons should avoid contact with the urine of infected or healthy animals, and always use good personal hygiene when handling animals.

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