Molecular diagnosis and characterization of Cryptosporidium spp. in turkeys and chickens in Germany reveals evidence for previously undetected parasite species
A total of 256 fecal specimens were randomly collected from farmed poultry in Germany and screened for the presence of Cryptosporidium spp. by PCR and further characterized by direct automated DNA sequencing. Using a nested PCR amplifying approximately 830 bp 18S rDNA fragment, 7.03% (n = 18) of the samples were Cryptosporidium-positive. In detail, Cryptosporidium was detected in 9.3% (8/86) of turkeys, 5.7% (9/158) of broilers and 8.3% (1/12) of layers. After DNA sequencing, Cryptosporidium parvum the most frequently observed species was identified in 5.1% (13/256) of all poultry species, including 8.1% (7/86) of turkeys, 3.2% (5/158) of broilers and 8.3% (1/12) of layers. Cryptosporidium baileyi was detected in 1.3% (2/256) of the broilers only. Three novel unclassified Cryptosporidium spp. were detected in 1.2% (1/86) of turkeys and 1.3% (2/158) of broilers. The infection rate was high in 13–20 week old turkeys, 1–6 weeks old broilers and >20 weeks old layers but differences between age groups were not significant. This is the first study in Germany uses molecular methods for the detection of Cryptosporidium in poultry. The results indicate that Cryptosporidium parasites are common among broilers and turkeys in Germany. Considering the large size of the poultry industry, the large amount of poultry meat that is consumed and the fact that C. parvum is also the most common Cryptosporidium parasite in humans, poultry might also be a source of human infections.