Giardia duodenalis assemblages and Entamoeba species infecting non-human primates in an Italian zoological garden: zoonotic potential and management traits

Giardia duodenalis and Entamoeba spp. are among the most common intestinal human protozoan parasites worldwide and they are frequently reported in captive non-human primates (NHP).

From a public health point of view, infected animals in zoos constitute a risk for animal caretakers and visitors. In this study we carried out the molecular identification of G.

duodenalis and Entamoeba spp. from nine species of primates housed in the zoological garden of Rome, to better ascertain their occurrence and zoonotic potential.

Results: G.

duodenalis was found only in Lemur catta (47.0%). Entamoeba spp.

were detected in all species studied, with the exception of Eulemur macaco and Varecia rubra. The number of positive pools ranged from 5.9% in L.

catta to 81.2% in Mandrillus sphinx; in Pan troglodytes the observed prevalence was 53.6%. A mixed Entamoeba-Giardia infection was recorded only in one sample of L.

catta. All G.

duodenalis isolates belonged to the zoonotic assemblage B, sub assemblage BIV. Three Entamoeba species were identified: E.

hartmanni, E. coli and E.


Conclusions: Our results highlight the importance of regularly testing animals kept in zoos for the diagnosis of zoonotic parasites, in order to evaluate their pathogenic role in the housed animals and the zoonotic risk linked to their presence. A quick detection of the arrival of pathogens into the enclosures could also be a prerequisite to limit their spread into the structure via the introduction of specific control strategies.

The need for molecular identification of some parasite species/genotype in order to better define the zoonotic risk is also highlighted.

Published on: 2011-10-12

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