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Sommer, M. F.; Rupp, P.; Pietsch, M.; Kaspar, A. and Beelitz, P. (2018): Giardia in a selected population of dogs and cats in Germany - diagnostics, coinfections and assemblages. In: Veterinary Parasitology, Vol. 249: pp. 49-56

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Infections with the zoonotic endoparasite Giardia duodenalis are widely spread among dogs and cats worldwide. Since the question whether the infection might be transmitted from domestic animals to their owners is still an important topic, a reliable detection of patent Giardia infections and the determination of the associated Giardia assemblages is of major concern. The objectives of the present study were to determine the prevalence of Giardia infections in dogs and cats living in Germany using different diagnostic tests and to identify the Giardia assemblages of infected animals. Furthermore, a possible correlation of coinfections with other endoparasites was analysed. All samples were investigated by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), merthiolate-iodine-formalin concentration technique (MIFC) and zinc chloride flotation. ELISA-positive samples were additionally screened with a direct immunofluorescence assay (IFA), Faecal DNA was extracted from all Giardia cyst-positive samples and used for multilocus sequence typing with nested PCRs targeting the following gene loci: SSU rRNA (SSU), glutamate dehydrogenase (gdh) and triosephosphate isomerase (tpi). Samples from dogs and cats tested positive for Giardia coproantigen (ELISA) in 30.6% and 17.9%, respectively. The MIFC technique revealed Giardia cysts in 33.9% of canine and in 34.6% of feline ELISA-positive samples, while using IFA, cysts were present in 90.4% of canine and in 76.9% of feline ELISA-positive samples. Coinfections with other endoparasites besides Giardia were found in both dogs and cats, yet a statistically significant correlation could solely be drawn for the canine samples. The success rate of the different PCR protocols varied between 23.1% (tpi) and 91.3% (SSU) for dogs and between 25.0% (gdh) and 90.0% (SSU) for cats. Dog-specific Giardia assemblages C and D were detected in 42 and 55 canine isolates, respectively. The cat-specific Giardia assemblage F was detected in 14 feline isolates. Two canine and two feline samples harboured the zoonotic assemblage A. According to the results of the study, Giardia is a common endoparasite in dogs and cats from Germany. The exclusive application of MIFC is insufficient for a reliable identification of patent Giardia infections since the IFA revealed a higher sensitivity for the detection of Giardia cysts in feline and canine faecal samples. Even though the majority of investigated animals harboured the species-specific Giardia assemblages C, D and F, a zoonotic potential arising from assemblage A could not be excluded.

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