Multilocus genotypes and broad host-range of Enterocytozoon bieneusi in captive wildlife at zoological gardens in China
Enterocytozoon bieneusi is an emerging and opportunistic enteric pathogen triggering diarrhea and enteric disease in humans and animals. Despite extensive research on this pathogen, the prevalence and genotypes of E. bieneusi infection in precious wild animals of giant and red pandas have not been reported. In the present study, 82 faecal specimens were collected from 46 giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) and 36 red pandas (Ailurus fulgens) in the northwest of China. By PCR and sequencing of the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) region of the ribosomal RNA (rRNA) gene of E. bieneusi, an overall infection rate of 10.98% (9/82) was observed in pandas, with 8.70% (4/46) for giant pandas, and 13.89% (5/36) for red pandas. Two ITS genotypes were identified: the novel genotype I-like (n=4) and genotype EbpC (n=5). Multilocus sequence typing (MLST) employing three microsatellites (MS1, MS3 and MS7) and one minisatellite (MS4) showed that nine, six, six and nine positive products were amplified and sequenced successfully at four respective loci. A phylogenetic analysis based on a neighbor-joining tree of the ITS gene sequences of E. bieneusi indicated that the genotype EbpC fell into 1d of group 1 of zoonotic potential, and the novel genotype I-like was clustered into group 2. The present study firstly indicated the presence of E. bieneusi in giant and red pandas, and these results suggested that integrated strategies should be implemented to effectively protect pandas and humans from infecting E. bieneusi in China.