Occurrence and distribution of Giardia species in wild rodents in Germany
Background Giardiasis is an important gastrointestinal parasitic disease in humans and other mammals caused by the protozoan Giardia duodenalis. This species complex is represented by genetically distinct groups (assemblages A-H) with varying zoonotic potential and host preferences. Wild rodents can harbor potentially zoonotic assemblages A and B, and the rodent-specific assemblage G. Other Giardia spp. found in these animals are Giardia muris and Giardia microti. For the latter, only limited information on genetic typing is available. It has been speculated that wild rodents might represent an important reservoir for parasites causing human giardiasis. The aim of this study was to investigate the occurrence and distribution of Giardia spp. and assemblage types in wild rodents from different study sites in Germany. Results Screening of 577 wild rodents of the genera Apodemus, Microtus and Myodes, sampled at eleven study sites in Germany, revealed a high overall Giardia prevalence. Giardia species determination at the SSU rDNA gene locus revealed that Apodemus mice, depending on species, were predominantly infected with one of two distinct G. muris sequence types. Giardia microti was the predominant parasite species found in voles of the genera Microtus and Myodes. Only a few animals were positive for potentially zoonotic G. duodenalis. Subtyping at the beta-giardin (bg) and glutamine dehydrogenase (gdh) genes strongly supported the existence of different phylogenetic subgroups of G. microti that are preferentially harbored by distinct host species. Conclusions The present study highlights the preference of G. muris for Apodemus, and G. microti for Microtus and Myodes hosts and argues for a very low prevalence of zoonotic G. duodenalis assemblages in wild rodents in Germany. It also provides evidence that G. muris and G. microti subdivide into several phylogenetically distinguishable subgroups, each of which appears to be preferentially harbored by species of a particular rodent host genus. Finally, the study expands the database of sequences relevant for sequence typing of G. muris and G. microti isolates which will greatly help future analyses of these parasites’ population structure.