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Giardia duodenalis is one of the most important gastrointestinal parasites in dogs and cats with a zoonotic potential. In Germany the prevalence in dogs and cats reaches up to 29% and 24%, respectively. Genotypes of 2 genetic assemblages of the parasites infect humans (assemblages A and B) and other mammals including small animals. In contrast, parasites of the assemblages C and D are specific for dogs, assemblage F for cats.
Objectives of the study were to analyse the prevalence, potential epidemiological risk factors and symptoms of G. duodenalis infections in dogs and cats.
To detect G. duodenalis, feces from dogs and cats was analysed with an ELISA technique. After DNA extraction real time PCR as well as multi-locus sequence typing was performed for the following gene loci: triosephosphate isomerase-, glutamate dehydrogenase-, beta-giardin-gene, ssu rRNA. With a questionnaire possible epidemiological risk factors were evaluated. Statistical analyses were performed using SPSS 21 (Odds ratio, Kolmogorow-Smirnow test, Spearman correlation).
Fecal samples of 618 dogs and 156 cats were collected over a time period of 23 months. The ELISA test was positive in 101/618 dogs and 10/156 cats. 67 of 101 Giardia positive dogs and 9 of 10 positive cats had gastrointestinal signs. Genotyping was successful in 54 of 101 dog samples and were assigned to assemblages as follows: assemblage A (n = 12), A/C (n = 2), A/D (n = 4), B (n = 2), B/D (n = 1), C (n = 7), C/D (n = 2), D (n = 24). Only one of 10 positive cat samples could be genotyped and was atypically identified as assemblage D. Significant correlations between Giardia infection and age, clinical signs, deworming status and staying abroad were found.
In this monocenter study a prevalence rate of 16.3% in dogs and 6.4% in cats was detected, which is in good accordance with previous studies. The study further highlights a high rate (34%) of asymptomatically G. duodenalis infected animals. As potential zoonotic assemblages were detected, transmission of Giardia from small animals to humans (and vice versa) cannot be excluded. Especially young and not dewormed animals had a higher prevalence.