Microscopic and molecular tracing of Cryptosporidium Oocysts: identifying a possible reservoir of infection in Red Grouse
Infection by Cryptosporidium baileyi causes respiratory cryptosporidiosis in red grouse Lagopus lagopus scotica. First diagnosed in 2010, it has since been detected across half of moors managed for grouse shooting in northern England. We hypothesised that contaminated grouse faeces within communal trays visited by grouse containing grit coated with flubendazole, provided to control Trichostrongylus tenuis parasites of grouse, is a reservoir of infection. To establish the basis to this hypothesis, contents of 23 trays from a grouse moor were examined for Cryptosporidium oocysts. Contents were subjected to Immuno Magnetic Separation oocyst concentration techniques prior to examination by Immuno Fluorescence Antibody Test microscopy and molecular analysis on the 18S rRNA gene. Seven of 13 (54%) grit trays known to be used by infected grouse were positive for Cryptosporidium by IMS-IFAT, compared to two of 10 (20%) random background trays. Ten of the 13 (77%) trays used by infected birds amplified positive for Cryptosporidium by Polymerase Chain Reaction and three of the 10 (30%) random trays. All PCR amplified products sequenced matched with C. baileyi, with C. parvum also present in one tray. These data suggest that trays used to "worm" grouse may act as reservoirs of Cryptosporidium infection and their future design may need to be reconsidered to minimise contamination.