Occurrence of Gastrointestinal Parasites in Small Mammals from Germany
An increase in zoonotic infections in humans in recent years has led to a high level of public interest. However, the extent of infestation of free-living small mammals with pathogens and especially parasites is not well understood. This pilot study was carried out within the framework of the "Rodent-borne pathogens" network to identify zoonotic parasites in small mammals in Germany. From 2008 to 2009, 111 small mammals of 8 rodent and 5 insectivore species were collected. Feces and intestine samples from every mammal were examined microscopically for the presence of intestinal parasites by using Telemann concentration for worm eggs, Kinyoun staining for coccidia, and Heidenhain staining for other protozoa. Adult helminths were additionally stained with carmine acid for species determination. Eleven different helminth species, five coccidians, and three other protozoa species were detected. Simultaneous infection of one host by different helminths was common. Hymenolepis spp. (20.7%) were the most common zoonotic helminths in the investigated hosts. Coccidia, including Eimeria spp. (30.6%), Cryptosporidium spp. (17.1%), and Sarcocystis spp. (17.1%), were present in 40.5% of the feces samples of small mammals. Protozoa, such as Giardia spp. and amoebae, were rarely detected, most likely because of the repeated freeze-thawing of the samples during preparation. The zoonotic pathogens detected in this pilot study may be potentially transmitted to humans by drinking water, smear infection, and airborne transmission.