Detection and molecular characterisation of Cryptosporidium parvum in British European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus)

Sangster, L and Blake, D P and Robinson, G and Hopkins, T C and Sa, R C C and Cunningham, A A and Chalmers, R M and Lawson, B (2015) Detection and molecular characterisation of Cryptosporidium parvum in British European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). VETERINARY PARASITOLOGY, 217. pp. 39-44.

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Abstract

Surveillance was conducted for the occurrence of protozoan parasites of the genus Cryptosporidium in European hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) in Great Britain. In total, 108 voided faecal samples were collected from hedgehogs newly admitted to eight wildlife casualty treatment and rehabilitation centres. Terminal large intestinal (LI) contents from three hedgehog carcasses were also analysed. Information on host and location variables, including faecal appearance, body weight, and apparent health status, was compiled. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) targeting the 18S ribosomal RNA gene, confirmed by sequencing, revealed an 8% (9/111) occurrence of Cryptosporidium parvum in faeces or LI contents, with no significant association between the host or location variables and infection. Archived small intestinal (SI) tissue from a hedgehog with histological evidence of cryptosporidiosis was also positive for C. parvum by PCR and sequence analysis of the 18S rRNA gene. No other Cryptosporidium species were detected. PCR and sequencing of the glycoprotein 60 gene identified three known zoonotic C. parvum subtypes not previously found in hedgehogs: IIdA17G1 (n=4), IIdA19G1 (n=1) and IIdA24G1 (n=1). These subtypes are also known to infect livestock. Another faecal sample contained C. parvum IIcA5G3j which has been found previously in hedgehogs, and for which there is one published report in a human, but is not known to affect livestock. The presence of zoonotic subtypes of C. parvum in British hedgehogs highlights a potential public health concern. Further research is needed to better understand the epidemiology and potential impacts of Cryptosporidium infection in hedgehogs.