Epidemiology and Treatment of Cryptosporidium serpentis in a Snake Collection
AbstractWithin any large animal collection, parasites and diseases can often be present. One parasite present in many different animal hosts is Cryptosporidium, a protozoan parasite that targets and infects the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract of its host. In reptiles, specifically snakes, Cryptosporidium serpentis can be lethal. Fecal antigen tests and immunofluorescent antibody testing are commonly used as simple methods to determine if Cryptosporidium oocytes are found within an animal’s feces, however, these tests do not distinguish between the different Cryptosporidium species. Several studies have found another species, Cryptosporidium parvum, within snakes. This species of Cryptosporidium is not pathogenic in snakes. Being able to identify between these species is necessary to provide correct treatment, as both will appear positive on the identification tests. Most zoological institutions rely on these testing methods as their primary way of identifying Cryptosporidium. Limited research has been published on how to deal with Cryptosporidium in snake collections. Standard protocols of zoological institutions either euthanize the infected individual or permanently isolate them. The focus of this study is to determine a protocol to use in the case that Cryptosporidium is identified within a snake collection. The aim is to use snakes from West Liberty University’s Zoo Science snake collection that have tested positive for Cryptosporidium, and work to identify the species using PCR-RFLP. Once identified, a treatment plan using paromomycin will be monitored to try and eliminate C. serpentis in infected individuals.
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