Seroprevalence of E. cuniculi in North Italy

3 December 2018 – News

Encephalitozoon cuniculi (E. cuniculi) is an obligate intracellular microsporidium with a wide range of mammal hosts, including rodents and carnivores. It can infect humans and is a particular risk to people with compromised immunity.

Rabbits shed spores in their urine and they replicate preferentially in the brain and kidney. Encephalitozoonosis in rabbits is persistent, with an estimated 37% to 68% seroprevalence in pets. The pathology causes neurological signs (including vestibular ones), as well as kidney failure and eye lesions.

In a study, samples from 826 pet rabbits were submitted for serological analysis using carbon immunoassay. 59.5% were positive for E. cuniculi and the authors commented that this value is within the same range as other studies. 44.5% of seropositive animals and 91 of the 334 seronegative animals showed clinical signs.

Their conclusions indicate that E. cuniculi is widely distributed in Italy. Serology stands as the most useful diagnostic tool but care is needed when interpreting results as there is a high rate of subclinical infection with positive serology tests, as well as animals showing clinical signs despite negative serology tests. Both clinical signs and the detection of high titers are highly indicative of encephalitozoonosis.

In Lavazza, A., Chiari, M., Nassuato, C., Giardiello, D., Tittarelli, C., & Grilli, G. (2016). Serological Investigation on Encephalitozoon cuniculi in pet rabbits in North-Central Italy. Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine