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Clustering of Cryptosporidium species infections among sheep and cattle but not children in remote highland communities of Madagascar

Background: The aim of this study was to identify local transmission patterns of Cryptosporidium spp. infections among livestock and humans in four extremely rural and remote highland communities in Madagascar.

Methods: In this cross-sectional study, households were randomly sampled throughout a 1-year study period, with one feces sample collected from each child (≤ 5 years old), sheep and cattle. Cryptosporidium spp. were identified using a nested PCR assay targeting the 18S ribosomal RNA gene. All samples positive for Cryptosporidium hominis were further subtyped by sequencing the 60-kDa glycoprotein gene (gp60). Spatial clustering methods were applied to analyze potential transmission patterns.

Results: In total, 252 households participated in the study, and samples from 197 children, 862 cattle and 334 sheep were collected and included in the study. Of the samples collected, 11 (5.6%) from children, 30 (3.5%) from cattle and 42 (12.6%) from sheep tested positive for Cryptosporidium spp. Very little overlap in the species distribution between human and animal infections was found. Global (overall) and local (spatially defined) clustering was observed for Cryptosporidium spp. infections in sheep and for Cryptosporidium xiaoi/bovis infections among sheep and cattle.

Discussion: The results of this analysis do not support the occurrence of defined disease outbreaks, rather they point to a continuous series of transmission events that are spatially aggregated. Despite the close coexistence between humans, sheep and cattle in the study area, mutual transmission was not observed. Hence, the study underlines the importance of sustained sanitation and hygiene measures to prevent cryptosporidiosis transmission among infants, since asymptomatic children serve as an infection reservoir. Similarly, the study highlights the importance of improving hygiene to reduce the transmission of Cryptosporidium spp. in livestock, an infection with serious consequences, especially in newborn calves.



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