First identification and molecular subtyping of Blastocystis sp. in zoo animals in southwestern China

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Abstract

Background: Blastocystis sp. is an anaerobic protozoan that parasitizes many animal hosts and the human gastrointestinal tract, and its pathogenicity is controversial. Captive wildlife may be potential reservoirs for human infection with Blastocystis sp. The present study was performed to investigate the prevalence and subtype distribution of Blastocystis sp. in zoo animals in Sichuan Province, southwestern China. Methods: A total of 420 fresh fecal samples were collected from 54 captive wildlife species in four zoos in southwestern China between June 2017 and September 2019. The prevalence and subtype (ST) genetic characteristics of Blastocystis sp. were determined by PCR amplification of the barcode region of the SSU rRNA gene and phylogenetic analysis. Results: Overall, 15.7% (66/420) of the animal samples and 20.7% (14/54) of the species tested were shown to be infected with Blastocystis sp. The highest prevalence of Blastocystis sp. was found in Panzhihua Zoo (24.3%), which was significantly higher than that in Chengdu Zoo (6.9%), and Xichang Zoo (2.9%) (P < 0.05). There are also significant differences in the prevalence of Blastocystis sp. among different species (P < 0.05), and the highest of Blastocystis sp. prevalence was observed in white-cheeked gibbon, black great squirrel, and red giant flying squirrel (100%). Subtype analysis of Blastocystis sp. revealed nine subtypes, including six zoonotic STs (ST1-5, and ST8) and three animal-specific STs (ST10, ST14, and ST17), with ST17 as the predominant subtype (26/66) in Blastocystis sp.-positive isolates. Conclusions: To our knowledge, this is the first report on the prevalence and subtype distribution of Blastocystis sp. among captive wildlife in zoos in southwestern China. This study highlights that these animals may serve as reservoirs for human Blastocystis sp. infections. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

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Deng, L., Yao, J., Chen, S., He, T., Chai, Y., Zhou, Z., … Peng, G. (2021). First identification and molecular subtyping of Blastocystis sp. in zoo animals in southwestern China. Parasites and Vectors, 14(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-020-04515-2

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