Cryptosporidium spp have emerged over the last decade as important diarrheal causing agents particularly among HIV patients. Zoonotic transmission has been reported and their occurrence in domestic animals is of potential significance from both clinical and public health perspectives, yet the occurrence of these organisms among animals in South Africa, particularly the Vhembe district, has not been described. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence and potential risk factors of Cryptosporidium spp in domestic animals, particularly cats and dogs in the Thohoyandou region. Fresh stool samples were collected from cats (25 samples) and dogs (25 samples) including stray and home based animals in different areas of the Thohoyandou region and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) was used to amplify the Cryptosporidium genetic material using specific primers to the 18S rRNA gene. From the 50 samples tested, 8 (32.0%) of the cats samples had Cryptosporidium and 11 (44%) of the dogs samples hadCryptosporidium with no significant difference (χ2=0.764, p=0.280). Cryptosporidium was more common in diarrheal samples in cats and dogs, 3/4 (42.9%) and 7/14 (50%) respectively. The infection rate was higher in stray animals particularly in the stray cats [3/4 (75%)] compared to home based cats [5 (23.8%)] (χ2=4.046, p=0.044). Stray dogs were also more infected [6 (46.2%)] than home based dogs [5 (41.7%)], but the difference was not statistically significant (p=0.821). Animals from more rural parts of the region were more infected. The results of this study for the first time demonstrated the high prevalence of Cryptosporidium infections among cats and dogs in the Thohoyandou region and its implications in causing diarrhea and that stray animals poses a threat to the community and other animals.
Key words: Cryptosporidium, cats, dogs, Venda, South Africa, epidemiology
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