Encephalitozoon cuniculi infection in farmed rabbits in Egypt.

Morsy, E. A., H. M. Salem, M. S. Khattab, D. A. Hamza, and M. M. Abuowarda, "Encephalitozoon cuniculi infection in farmed rabbits in Egypt.", Acta veterinaria Scandinavica, vol. 62, issue 1, pp. 11, 2020.


BACKGROUND: Encephalitozoon cuniculi is an important microsporidian parasite with zoonotic potential. The present study highlights the impact of encephalitozoonosis on rabbit health in Egypt. Three rabbit farms in Giza, with a total of 16,400 rabbits were investigated due to occurrence of rabbits displaying clinical signs consistent with encephalitozoonosis.

RESULTS: Clinical signs observed during a 4 months observation period in 2018 included vestibular disease, paresis, limb paralysis, cataracts, phacoclastic uveitis, frequent urination, marked decrease in body weight and in some pregnant females, also repeated abortions. The total morbidity rates in adult and young rabbits were 76.7% and 81.5%, respectively. The highest mortality rate was recorded in offspring (12.3%), followed by dams (5.6%), and the lowest recorded mortality rate was in males (0.04%). Post-mortem findings included enteritis, pale enlarged kidneys, congested leptomeninges, focal brain necrosis, and endometrial congestion. Histopathological examination revealed nonsuppurative meningoencephalitis and glial nodules with central necrosis in the brain, vacuolation and necrosis of renal tubular epithelium, and corneal ulceration and ruptured lens capsule with fragmentation of lenticular fibres. E. cuniculi were observed in the brain, retinal ganglion cells, kidneys, and liver. Transmission electron microscopy examination revealed the presence of different developmental stages of E. cuniculi in the brain and kidney. Presence of E. cuniculi was confirmed by conventional polymerase chain reaction using a universal 16S gene for Encephalitozoon spp. followed by sequencing and sequence analysis.

CONCLUSIONS: The presence of E. cuniculi in rabbits was confirmed at three farms in Egypt. Nervous signs and ocular lesions were the most predominant findings in these farms.