THE CRYPTO PROBLEM
• May cause massive losses in collections with subsequent loss of reputation amongst breeders
• Intermittent shedding - false negatives are frequent especially in clinically well animals
• Sequenced-Crypto-Testing and/or ELISA screen initially recommended during quarantine
• Affects snakes and lizards primarily, although tortoises mt also be affected
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• Fill out form and collect sample
• Post sample - Freepost 1st class envelope is provided
• Results sent via e-mail in PDF format within 6 working days from sample receipt.
Centrifugal flotation using sodium nitrate and/or zinc sulphate is our preferred method. The Companion Animal Parasite Council (CAPC) recommends centrifugal flotation as the preferred method for routine screening of faecal samples for detection of parasite ova as there is a proven increased sensitivity 1,2,3,4. This is the technique we use.
At present we are performing studies regarding parasites in the captive environment and therefore the results could be used for publication purposes. The samples and information received shall form part of our database and will be anonymous.
We are unable to discuss treatment regimes as per the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) rules as the animals are not under our care. Footnotes shall be given and you should contact your veterinary surgeon regarding treatment. We also offer support for your veterinary surgeon if necessary. Further tests may be recommended in specific cases which may include PCR testing.
1 Blagburn BL, Butler JM. Optimize intestinal parasite detection with centrifugal fecal flotation. Vet Med 2006;101(7):455-464.
2 Dryden MW, Payne PA, Ridley R, et al, Comparison of common fecal flotation techniques for the recovery of parasite eggs and oocysts. Vet Ther 2005;6:15-28.
3 Dryden MW, Payne PA, Smith V. Accurate diagnosis of Giardia spp and proper fecal examination procedures. Vet Ther 2006;7:4-14.
4 Zajac A, Johnson J, King S. Evaluation of the importance of centrifugation as a component of zinc sulfate fecal flotation examinations. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc 2002;38:221-224.
WHAT IS CRIPTOSPORIDIOSIS?
Currently, more than 30 species of Cryptosporidium have been recognised, including C. muris, C. andersoni, C. parvum, C. hominis, C. wrairi, C. felis, and C. canis in mammals; C. baïleyi, C. meleagridis, and C. galli in birds; and C. molnari in fish. Because of the low host specificity the number of species remains a matter of discussion.
Cryptosporidium has been found in around 60 species of reptile including 40 species of snakes, 15 lizards and 2 tortoises at the time of writing. These include C. serpentis found in snakes, C. varanii (previously C. saurophilum) found in lizards but also snakes. Cryptosporidium varanii (saurophilum) and C. serpentis are the species of most interest affecting reptiles with clinical signs. C. serpentis mainly affects the stomach and C. varanii affecting the small intestine (Lihua Xiao et al., 2004), although other locations have also been reported, including the inner ear (Frye et al., 1999) and pharynx (Uhl et al., 2001). C ducimarci and C. tortoise genotype in tortoises including Pancake, Russian and Hermann's Tortoises (Ritcher et al., 2012). The author has identified unknown Cryptosporidium sp. in a Russian Tortoise with clinical signs that was ultimately euthanased (not published).
It is considered and important disease in reptile collections, especially those involving Leopard Geckos and collubrid snakes.
Infection is via the faecal-oral route, either via the direct route between animals that are housed together, or indirect route through fomites or vehicles including keeper manipulation of animals, housing components, food. Risk of infection through these routes is considered high.
Oocysts are formed as the criptosporidia pass through the intestinal tract which are eliminated intermittently via the faeces. This can complicate diagnosis and is the reason why sequenced testing is reccomended to increase detection possibilities - or increase sensitivity.
CRYPTO DETECTION COMPLICATIONS • Oocysts are eliminated intermittently which may reduce detection through one single test • Asymptomatic carriers: animals that do not show any signs even after long quarantine periods
COMMON SIGNS/SYMPTOMS Diarrhoea, maldigestion-malabsorption syndrome, anorexia, cachexia, death. The importance of asymptomatic carriers is exacerbated in those cases where a male is introduced to numerous females.
DIAGNOSIS Different tests are available including ELISA, immunochromatography, PCR, staining techniques and immunofluorescence - each with their pros and cons - read more. It has been proven that a modified Ziehl Neelsen test is an efficient diagnostic method and even the chosen method of diagnosis according to some studies. Let us remember that although other techniques or tests such as PCR may be very efficient, that shedding is intermittent and therefore ideally sequenced tests should be performed.
A negative diagnosis should not be based solely upon one test results. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise that at least 3 samples should be tested before a negative result is reported (CDC link). We consider this as a minimum and consider that up to six samples should be tested for highly valued reptiles.
A modified Ziehl-Neelsen technique and PCR testing are our preferred primary diagnostic methods. In some cases it may be necessary to determine the species of cryptosporidia ie in cases of rodent eating monitors or snakes. PCR testing allows this.
TREATMENT Treatment and elimination of infection is unrewarding although some individuals do respond well to treatment. The infected animal should be isolated from a group or not introduced if tests positive during quarantine. Different drugs have been used to control clinical signs.
PREVENTION • Strict quarantine period of at least 2 months • Strict hygiene • Sequenced specific testing and testing