NZ Dairy Calves - A Source of Giardia Strains

NEW ZEALAND - A new study has concluded that dairy calves may hide a significant and dangerous reservoir of giardia strains to New Zealand citizens.
calendar icon 26 September 2008
clock icon 1 minute read

Giardia is a parasite that causes a severe gastrointestinal illness, called giardiasis, in humans, reports Otago Daily Times.

The news agency says that this is the third most common cause of human disease by a microbial agent in New Zealand, with infection rates up to five times higher than those observed in similar countries.

University of Otago researchers found a largeproportion of giardia samples taken from infected dairy calves and human sufferers in Otago over a two-year period were genetically indistinguishable.

Cattle had not previously been considered a significant reservoir of giardia strains that could infect humans because genetic studies involving dairy herds overseas had found the animals predominantly carried a livestock-specific strain.

However, study co-author and Otago zoology PhD student Cynthia Winkworth said that, to date, the livestock-specific strain had not been detected in New Zealand North or South Island dairy herds.

In fact, recent research showed that the giardia isolated from the animals consisted of the two human-infecting strains, she said.

The findings did not prove giardia was being transmitted from calves to humans, or vice versa, but did highlight a clear cause for concern.

"The significant degree of genetic overlap we detected suggests giardia present in dairy calves may indeed be a potentially significant reservoir of strains capable of causing infections in humans," she told Otago Daily Times.

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