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PeerJ. 2014 Jul 29;2:e492. doi: 10.7717/peerj.492. eCollection 2014.

Prevalence of Entamoeba species in captive primates in zoological gardens in the UK.

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School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, University of Nottingham , Loughborough, Leicestershire , UK.


The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of amoebic infection in non-human primates (NHPs) from six Zoological gardens in the United Kingdom. Initially, 126 faecal samples were collected from 37 individually identified NHPs at Twycross Zoo, UK, and were subjected to microscopic examination. A subsequent, nationwide experiment included 350 faecal samples from 89 individually identified NHPs and 73 unidentified NHPs from a number of UK captive wildlife facilities: Twycross Zoo (n = 60), Colchester Zoo (n = 3), Edinburgh Zoo (n = 6), Port Lympne Wild Animal Park (n = 58), Howletts Wild Animal Park (n = 31), and Cotswold Wildlife Park (n = 4). Samples were examined by PCR and sequencing using four specific primer sets designed to differentiate between the pathogenic E. histolytica, the non-pathogenic E. dispar, and non-pathogenic uninucleate cyst-producing Entamoeba species. In the first experiment, Entamoeba was detected in 30 primates (81.1%). Six (16.2%) primates were infected with E. histolytica species complex. The highest carriage of Entamoeba species was found in Old World Colobinae primates. In the nationwide experiment, molecular analysis of faecal samples revealed notable rates of Entamoeba infection (101 samples, 28.9%), including one sample infected with E. histolytica, 14 samples with E. dispar, and 86 samples with uninucleated-cyst producing Entamoeba species. Sequences of positive uninucleated-cyst producing Entamoeba samples from Twycross Zoo clustered with the E. polecki reference sequences ST4 reported in Homo sapiens, and are widely separated from other Entamoeba species. These findings suggest a low prevalence of the pathogenic Entamoeba infection, but notable prevalence of non-pathogenic E. polecki infection in NHPs in the UK.


Entamoeba; Homo sapiens; Nonhuman primates; Phylogenetics; Prevalence; Public health; Zoonosis; Zoos

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