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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 81:39-51 (2008)  -  DOI:

Contribution to the DAO Special 'Marine vertebrate zoonoses'

Molecular characterization of Giardia intestinalis haplotypes in marine animals: variation and zoonotic potential

Erica Lasek-Nesselquist1,2,*, Andrea L. Bogomolni3, Rebecca J. Gast3, David Mark Welch2, Julie C. Ellis4, Mitchell L. Sogin2, Michael J. Moore3

1Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, 80 Waterman Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02912, USA
2Josephine Bay Paul Center for Comparative Molecular Biology and Evolution, Marine Biological Laboratory,
7 MBL Street, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
3Biology Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA
4Department of Environmental and Population Health, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, North Grafton, Massachusetts 01536, USA

ABSTRACT: Giardia intestinalis is a microbial eukaryotic parasite that causes diarrheal disease in humans and other vertebrates worldwide. The negative effect on quality of life and economics caused by G. intestinalis may be increased by its potential status as a zoonosis, or a disease that can be transmitted from animals to humans. The zoonotic potential of G. intestinalis has been implied for over 2 decades, with human-infecting genotypes (belonging to the 2 major subgroups, Assemblages A and B) occurring in wildlife and domesticated animals. There are recent reports of G. intestinalis in shellfish, seals, sea lions and whales, suggesting that marine animals are also potential reservoirs of human disease. However, the prevalence, genetic diversity and effect of G. intestinalis in marine environments and the role that marine animals play in transmission of this parasite to humans are relatively unexplored. Here, we provide the first thorough molecular characterization of G. intestinalis in marine vertebrates. Using a multi-locus sequencing approach, we identify human-infecting G. intestinalis haplotypes of both Assemblages A and B in the fecal material of dolphins, porpoises, seals, herring gulls Larus argentatus, common eiders Somateria mollissima and a thresher shark Alopias vulpinus. Our results indicate that G. intestinalis is prevalent in marine ecosystems, and a wide range of marine hosts capable of harboring zoonotic forms of this parasite exist. The presence of G. intestinalis in marine ecosystems raises concerns about how this disease might be transmitted among different host species.

KEY WORDS: Giardia intestinalis · Zoonosis · Marine birds · Marine mammals · Thresher shark

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Cite this article as: Lasek-Nesselquist E, Bogomolni A, Gast R, Welch DM, Ellis JC, Sogin ML, Moore M (2008) Molecular characterization of Giardia intestinalis haplotypes in marine animals: variation and zoonotic potential. Dis Aquat Org 81:39-51.

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