Recent advances in the understanding of Encephalitozoon cuniculi infection in domestic rabbits in the UK

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  • Encephalitozoon cuniculi    widespread obligate intracellular microsporidian parasite, which is frequently encountered in laboratory rabbits.
  • Transmission occurs orally following ingestion of contaminated tissues, food items or infected urine. Transplacental infection has also been reported, as well as infection via the respiratory route following inhalation.
  • Infections have been diagnosed in a variety of mammalian hosts including rodents, guinea pigs, monkeys, cats, dogs, sheep, pigs and humans. Following infection the organisms infect mononuclear cells and are carried in the blood circulation to target organs such as the liver, kidney and central nervous system.
  • Many infected rabbits may be asymptomatic, however clinical signs such as head tilt    , urinary incontinence    , posterior paresis and anterior uveitis may be observed.
  •  A survey of 97 pet rabbits in the UK estimated the seroprevalence of E. cuniculi to be 52%.
  • Serological surveys have been carried out on wild rabbits in England and Scotland and these were negative.
  • Serological surveys in laboratory animal colonies have shown a prevalence varying between 25-95%.
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