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Veterinaria México OA

versión On-line ISSN 2448-6760

Veterinaria México OA vol.1 no.1 México jul./sep. 2014

https://doi.org/10.21753/vmoa.1.1.332 

Original research articles

Prevalence and risk factors associated with infection by Cryptosporidium spp. in suckling calves in Aguascalientes, Mexico

Dolores García Romoa 

Carlos Cruz Vázquezb  * 

Teódulo Quezada Tristánc 

Enrique Silva Peñad 

Arturo Valdivia Floresc 

Sonia Vázquez Florese 

Miguel Ramos Parrab 

aCentro de Bachillerato Tecnológico Agropecuario No. 205, Manuel de Velazco No. 601, Colonia Solidaridad, 20400, Rincón de Romos, Aguascalientes, México.

bDivisión de Estudios de Posgrado e Investigación. Instituto Tecnológico El Llano Aguascalientes, Km. 18 carretera Aguascalientes a San Luis Potosí, 20330, El Llano, Aguascalientes, México.

cCentro de Ciencias Agropecuarias. Universidad Autónoma de Aguascalientes, Av. Universidad 940, Ciudad Universitaria, 20231, Aguascalientes, México.

dFacultad de Medicina Veterinaria y Zootecnia. Universidad de Colima, Km. 40 carretera Colima a Manzanillo, 28100, Tecomán, Colima, México.

eInstituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Campus Querétaro, E. González 500, Fracc. San Pablo, 76130, Querétaro, México


Abstract

The aim of this study was to identify the prevalence of and certain risk factors associated with infection by Cryptosporidium spp. in suckling calves that were maintained in confinement in three dairy farms in Aguascalientes, Mexico. Over a period of 12 months, 1658 fecal samples were taken from 0- to 28 day-old calves. These samples were processed by a Kinyoun stain of the fecal smears to identify the presence of parasite oocysts. A survey was conducted to identify the different management factors present in the dairy farms, and a risk analysis was performed using logistic regression. The overall prevalence of Cryptosporidium spp. infection was 40%; the 8- to 14-day-old age group of calves had the highest prevalence of infection (81%), while the lowest prevalence of infection (21%) was observed in the 22- to 28-day-old age group. The identified risk factors for infection by Cryptosporidium spp. in­cluded the 8- to 14-day-old group (OR = 15.2; 95% CI 11.2 - 20.6; P < 0.000) and the 15- to 21-day-old group (OR = 2.5; 95% CI 1.9 - 3.2, P < 0.000); the use of sawdust bedding (OR= 1.8; 95% Cl 1.1 - 2.8, P < 0.011); the plastic container from which calves drink milk (OR =1.4; 95% Cl 1.1-1.7, P < 0.000); the low level of immunoglobulins (OR = 1.8; 95% Cl 1.1 - 2.9, P < 0.009); and calving care by non-specialized personnel (night watchman: OR = 2.5; 95% Cl 1.6 - 3.9, P < 0.000; nursing area worker: OR 1.7; 95% Cl 1.2 - 2.5, P < 0.001).

Keywords: Cryptosporidium spp.; Dairy cattle; Suckling calves; Prevalence; Risk factors

Resumen

El objetivo fue identificar la prevalencia y algunos factores de riesgo asociados a la infección por Cryptosporidium spp. en becerras lactantes mantenidas en confinamiento en tres establos lecheros de Aguascalientes, México. Durante 12 meses se recolectaron 1658 muestras fecales de becerras de 0 a 28 días de edad, que se procesaron mediante frotis fecal teñido con Kinyoun para identificar la presencia de ooquistes del parásito. Se aplicó una encuesta para identificar diferentes características de manejo en los establos y se desarrolló el análisis de riesgos mediante regresión logística. La prevalencia general a la infección por Cryptosporidium spp. fue de 40%. El grupo de becerras de 8 a 14 días de edad presentó la prevalencia a la infección más elevada (81%), mientras que la más baja (21%) se observó en el grupo de 22 a 28 días de edad. Se identificaron como factores de riesgo a la infección por Cryptosporidium spp., al grupo de 8 a 14 días de edad (OR = 2.5; 95% Cl 1.9 - 3.2, p < 0.000); el uso de cama de aserrín (OR = 1.8; 95% Cl 1.1 - 2.8, p < 0.011); el recipiente de plástico de donde beben leche las becerras (OR = 1.4; 95% Cl 1.1 - 1.7, p < 0.000); el bajo nivel de inmunoglobulinas (OR = 1.8; 95% Cl 1.1 - 2.9, p < 0.009), y la atención de partos por parte de personal no especializado (velador: OR = 2.5; 95% Cl 1.6 - 3.9, p < 0.000; trabajador del área de recría: OR = 1.7; 95% Cl 1.2 - 2.5, p < 0.001).

Palabras clave: Cryptosporidium spp; Ganado lechero; Becerras lactantes; Prevalencia; Factores de riesgo

Introduction

Cryptosporidium spp. are protozoan parasites that cause gastrointestinal infections in a wide variety of vertebrate hosts, including domestic and wild animals as well as humans (Ramírez et al., 2004; Cacciò and Pozio, 2006; Ng et al., 2012). In cattle, at least four species have been identified, including C. parvum, C. andersoni, C. bovis and C. ryanae; the first species listed is found most frequently in suckling animals, while the others are more common in weaned and adult animals (Lindsay et al., 2000; Fayer et al., 2005, 2007, 2008). Cryptosporidiosis is particularly important in suckling animals that are younger than 30 days of age, in which abundant diarrhea, fever, anorexia, weight loss, electrolyte imbalance and eventually death can be observed (Ramírez et al., 2004; Cacciò and Pozio, 2006). The group with the highest risk to contract an infection are calves 8 to 14 days of age (Castro-Hermida et al., 2002a; Santín et al., 2004; Feitosa et al., 2004; Trotz-Williams et al., 2005), because the prevalence and parasitosis intensity tend to be reduced when the animals are older (Castro-Hermida et al., 2002b; Ortolani and Soares, 2003; Starkey et al., 2006; Castro-Hermida et al., 2006; Bhat et al., 2013). However, infection is very rare in animals younger than four days (Uga et al., 2000).

Animals infected with Cryptosporidium spp. may excrete feces with a high number of oocysts that may be easily disseminated in the environment in such a manner that different management factors have been associated with infection by Cryptosporidium spp. These factors should be considered in prevention programs for this parasite, particularly because there is a lack of effective pharmacological treatments (Cacciò and Pozio, 2006). Nevertheless, some of these factors vary across regions and in their production systems and geographical characteristics, while others may be present in any farm. Among the most frequently cited factors are age, multiple birthing areas, a low frequency of cleaning of the premise, the materials or types of bedding, the use of contaminated water for the cattle to drink, the technical level of the production system, sand-floor pens and the rainy season (Maldonado et al., 1998; De la Fuente et al., 1999; Mohammed et al., 1999; Castro-Hermida et al., 2002b; Trotz-Williams et al., 2007; Brook et al., 2008; Almeida et al., 2010; Muhid et al., 2011; Silverlås and Blanco-Penedo, 2013; Bhat et al., 2013). In Mexico, cryptosporidiosis has been reported in several cattle raising regions (Maldonado et al., 1998; Castillo-García et al., 2009; Castelan-Hernández et al., 2011; Cano-Romero et al., 2011), but numerous topics still required research regarding its epidemiology in the different production systems.

The aim of this study was to identify the prevalence and some of the risk factors associated with infection by Cryptosporidium spp. in suckling calves maintained in confinement in three dairy farms in Aguascalientes, México.

Materials and methods

Study site

The study was carried out in the state of Aguascalientes, which is located in the north central region of Mexico at an average altitude of 1885 masl. The state has an annual mean temperature of 16°C and an average annual rainfall of 475 mm which occurs primarily during the summer.

Dairy farms

In this study, three dairy farms were selected by convenience; two were located in the central northern part of the Pabellón de Arteaga municipality, and the other was located in the eastern part of the Rincón de Romos municipality. Holstein cattle were found on all three dairy farms. Each farm had a rearing area for female calves and used similar management practices; likewise, in the three farms, the suckling calves were lodged in rearing rooms with concrete floors.

Sampling

The dairy farms were visited every two weeks for a year to collect fecal samples directly from the rectum of all female calves between 0 and 28 days of age. These samples were collected from the calves that were present on the day of the visit, without considering whether the calves had diarrhea. Each sample was individually identified by recording the date of birth, and no animals were included twice in the study. Additionally, blood samples were taken by venipuncture with a new vacutainer in the female calves that were 1 to 7 days old. All of the samples were refrigerated for transportation. In the laboratory, the blood samples were centrifuged at 2500 rpm for 15 minutes to obtain the serum, which was deposited in polypropylene vials and preserved at -20°C until further use. Due to the study protocol, approval by the Committee of Use and Care of Animals was not required.

To determine the parasitosis distribution in the study population, the calves were classified into four age groups: 0 to 7, 8 to 14, 15 to 21 and 22 to 28 days of age.

Fecal diagnosis

The fecal samples were processed using a Kinyoun stain of the fecal smears to identify the parasite oocysts. From each sample, a slide was prepared with 6 smears; after the smears were stained, they were observed with a microscope. To minimize false positive readings, a sample was considered positive when > 5 oocysts were found during the complete examination of the 6 smears (Castillo-García et al., 2009).

Determination of the total amount of immunoglobulins in serum

The quantity of immunoglobulins was determined by the zinc sulfate turbidity test to establish the amount of immunoglobulins that was transferred by colostrums to the calves within the first 7 days of life. The number of zinc sulfate turbidity units (UTSZ) corresponds to the mg of total immunoglobulins per ml of serum, so levels below 10 UTSZ indicate a lack of passive antibody transfer from the mother to the offspring; a range of 10 to 20 represents an acceptable but insufficient level; and more than 20 is considered the necessary level to achieve successful nursing of the neonate (Martinez and Ortega, 2011).

Survey

To establish the hypothetical risk factors associated with infection by Cryptosporidium spp., data were obtained from a survey given to the people responsible for the rearing areas in the studied dairy farms; this survey asked questions regarding the characteristics of the facilities and management practices. Five groups were formed with the hypothetical risk factors, and each group was integrated with different variables and their respective categories; this was used as a basis for the risk analysis (Table 1).

Table 1 Cryptosporidium spp. infection prevalence for the different categories of each variable and the group of characteristics under study. 

Statistical analysis

The general parasitosis prevalence was estimated for each age group and for each variable and category of the hypothetical risk factors. To establish the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium spp., a logistic regression analysis was performed (Hosmer et al., 2013) in which the dependent variable was the parasite infection status. The independent variables were selected using a "backward step by step" method, in which the variables that were not statistically significant (p<0.05) according to the Chi square test were excluded one by one. The odds ratios (OR) were estimated using the independent variables that showed statistical significance in the multivariate analysis (p<0.05). The analysis was carried out using the Statistics Data Analysis (STATA) v. 9.1 software.

Results and Discussion

The general prevalence of Cryptosporidium spp. infection in the studied population was 40% (669/1658). Table 1 shows the prevalence for each category within the different variables.

The risk analysis identified 5 variables as risk factors for infection by Cryptosporidium spp., with the variable of the age of the calves being the most significant, particularly in the group of calves aged 8 to 14 days (OR=15.2; 95% CI 11.2 - 20.6; p<0.000), followed by the group of calves aged 15 to 21 days (OR= 2.5; 95% CI 1.9 - 3.2, p<0.000). The other variables that were identified as risk factors were related to the person in charge of the care of calving, the level of immunoglobulins, the type and hygiene of the bedding and/or floor of the lodging area, and the type of container in which the milk or milk substitute was given. Table 2 shows the categories identified as risk factors. None of the variables related to the operation and administration of the dairy farms were shown to be risk factors. In the variable related to the person in charge of the care of calving, the technician on guard proved to be a protective factor (OR= 0.73; 95% CI 0.5828 - 9237, p<0.008).

Table 2 Risk factors for infection by Cryptosporidium spp. identified in three dairy farms in Aguascalientes, Mexico. 

In this study, the general prevalence of infection by Cryptosporidium spp, in suckling calves (≤28 days of age) was found to be 40%, while in a study conducted in the same state that included animals from 8 to 14 days old, the prevalence of infection was found to be 75% (Castillo-García et al., 2009). In the dairy farms of Aguascalientes, the abundant presence of the parasite is clearly evident. A similar situation has been observed in the central region of Mexico (Hidalgo, Jalisco and the state of Mexico) and in the state of Veracruz, where other authors have reported general prevalences of 25, 35.7 and 73.6%, respectively; they have also found positive animals in at least 90% of the studied production units (Maldonado et al., 1998; Castelan-Hernández et al., 2011; Cano-Romero et al., 2011). However, the public health implications of zoonotic transmission in Mexico are uncertain because very few studies regarding human criptosporidiosis have been conducted (Valenzuela et al., 2014). Several studies on the cryptosporidiosis prevalence in suckling calves have been carried out in cattle raising regions of other countries using different diagnostic techniques, with a wide variety of results ranging from a prevalence of 17 to 47.9% (Lefay et al., 2000; Castro-Hermida et al., 2002a Joachim et al., 2003; Ortolani and Soares, 2003; Santín et al., 2004; Kváč et al, 2006; Brook et al., 2008; Bhat et al., 2013); this testifies to the ample geographic distribution and elevated frequency of this parasite.

Infection by Cryptosporidium spp. in dairy cattle is more frequent and has a greater impact in suckling calves; additionally, the magnitude of the disease is influenced by diverse factors such as age and the immunological status of the calves as well as the climate and other factors related to management practices during rearing. Therefore, the epidemiology of this parasite has specific characteristics for each unit and production system (Fayer et al., 2000). In this study, calves that were 8 to 14 days of age had a Cryptosporidium spp. infection prevalence of 81%; this was the highest of the 4 age groups investigated in this study. This result is similar to a previous report in Aguascalientes, in which the same age group had a 75% prevalence rate of infection (Castillo-García et al., 2009); in the other 3 age groups, the parasite prevalence rate ranged from 21 to 40%. In Mexico, a higher prevalence has been reported in calves under 4 months of age (Cano-Romero et al., 2011; Castelan-Hernández et al., 2011), with a higher rate of oocyst excretion between days 15 to 19 after birth (Maldonado et al., 1998). The prevalence according to age group is variable in suckling calves; nevertheless, it has been shown that the calves are the most affected between 8 and 15 days of age (De la Fuente et al., 1999; Ortolani and Soares 2003; Santín et al., 2004, 2008; Feitosa et al., 2004; Avendaño et al., 2010). This coincides with the fact that in this study, the 8- to 14-day-old age group was identified as the most important risk factor for infection by Cryptosporidium spp. (OR = 15.2), followed by the 15- to 21-day-old age (OR = 2.5). Other authors have found similar results (Maldonado et al., 1998; De la Fuente et al., 1999; Santín et al., 2004; Trotz-Williams et al., 2007; Brook et al., 2008), which indicates that the age range of 8 to 21 days has the highest risk of infection and excretion of parasite oocysts, although this risk is reduced as the age increases (Maldonado et al., 1998; Santin et al., 2004, 2008), as observed in our study. It is inferred that contamination with Cryptosporidium spp. occurs after the calves come into contact with other animals, the initiation feeder and drinking water. As Maldonado et al. stated (1998), the indicated initiation rations that are contaminated by rodents or birds act as fomites and become risk factors; similarly, drinking water has been referred to as a contamination risk due to contamination of either the liquid ducts (Sischo et al., 2000) or the drink containers (Almeida et al., 2010). Thus, age should be considered a risk indicator because it is an individual trait (Silva-Ayçaguer, 2005).

The variable represented by the person who cares for the births of the off spring, was identified as a risk factor when the births were overviewed by a night watchman or when calving was overseen by the same worker who took care of the nursing area. In the instances in which the calving was overseen by the technician on guard (OR = 0.73), this variable was not a risk factor but served as protection because the main job of the technician on guard is precisely to care for night births and calving on holidays. Similarly, when births under similar circumstances were cared for by the area worker or the custodial staff, it is inferred that the care is not as appropriate because in addition to caring for births, these individuals have other chores to perform; information on this topic was not found in the literature.Concerning the type and hygiene of the bedding and/or floor of the lodging area, the sawdust bedding category that was changed every 5 days was identified as a risk factor (OR = 1.80), perhaps because of the physical characteristics of the material: it tends to accumulate humidity and excrement, which is ideal for the parasite oocysts to survive and contaminate the material. In contrast, Maldonado et al. (1998) and Mohammed et al. (1999) did not find significant relationships between parasitosis and wood shavings serving as bedding. In this context, it seems that independent of the type of bedding, the cleaning frequency has a greater influence because longer time periods between cleanings promote the development of the parasite in the feces and the possibility that the calves or their feed have contact with that material. Similarly, floor slat lodgings and pens with sand bedding were reported as risk factors (Muhid et al., 2011). In both cases, the presence of discarded fecal matter, as occurred in our study, represented a source of oocyst contamination.

Regarding the type of container used to provide the calves with milk or milk substitute, plastic materials were found to be a risk factor in this study (OR = 1.4). This could be related to deficient washing because the plastic materials may be splashed with diarrheic feces that are most likely contaminated with the parasite; the containers are then licked by the calves, thereby causing infection. This is feasi ble because even though the calf lodgings in the studied dairy farms are individual, they do not offer total isolation; therefore the calves may lick the containers of their neighbors at any time. Further, Almeida et al. (2010) reported a significant association of the water supply tray with the risk of infection by C. parvum; in this case, they noted that liquid was an important reservoir of protozoan oocysts when contaminated with fecal matter. However, Maldonado et al. (1998) demonstrated that no type of container or feeding bottle presented a risk of infection by ryptosporidium.

The prevalence of infection was higher in animals that were vaccinated against diarrheic diseases; Trotz-Williams et al (2008) found a similar result in both cows and calves that had received such prophylaxis. Therefore, vaccination has been perceived as a risk factor for infection by Cryptosporidum. However, Trotz-Williams et al (2008) noted that vaccination is not as much a risk factor as it is a measure taken in response to a high frequency of calf scours because vaccines marketed for calf scours have no known impact on the risk of cryptosporidiosis. In fact, vaccines would be ineffective against scouring caused by Cryptosporidium infection.

In this study, the analysis of the level of immunoglobulins as a risk factor was conducted separately from the general model because the test was performed only in calves that were 1 to 7 days of age. Of these calves 61.7 % had insufficient levels of immunoglobulins and the immunoglobulin levels were therefore considered a risk factor (OR = 1.85). It was not possible in this study to establish a relationship between the level of immunoglobulins in the calves and the birth number of the mother, though there is some evidence that this has an influence on the concentration of G immunoglobulin in colostrums (Kehoe et al., 2011). Another study has evaluated the level of immunoglobulins in nursing calves and found serum protein values below 5.2 g/dL; these values were significantly related to infection by Cryptosporidium spp. (Trotz-Williams et al., 2007). Because cryptosporidiosis is associated with young and immunosuppressed animals, these results suggest that for the calves examined in this study, the colostrum feeding process was not sufficiently effective because newborns require the ingestion of colostrums in the first 6 hours of life to guarantee the intestinal absorption of immunoglobulins; additionally, serum amounts of antibodies below 10 mg/mL may cause up to 60% mortality caused by gastrointestinal infections (Weaver et al., 2000). In the dairy farms included in this study, the offspring were reported to consume 4 or more liters of the colostrums, but there were no data proving that the first take of colostrums occurred within the first 6 hours after birth; therefore, deficiencies in the postnatal feeding process are inferred.

Despite the present findings it must be noted that this study was undertaken in only 3 dairy farms; therefore, these results may not be generalizable to other farms in Mexico.

Conclusions

In this study, the age of the calves is reported to be a risk factor for acquiring infection by Cryptosporidium spp.; in particular, there was an association between infection and the age group of 8 to 14 days that was higher than the results reported in other studies. Therefore, the calving and the care of calves during birth and nursing should be performed by personnel who are dedicated exclusively to those chores to ensure optimum feeding with colostrums; this would also ensure an appropriate immunoglobulin level that may protect calves from infection by this parasite and other diseases. The results of this study suggest that cleaning the lodgings of the calves should be more stringent, particularly when using sawdust, and that feces and humidity should be removed constantly to avoid parasite proliferation. Additionally, containers for drinking milk or milk substitute should be cleaned perfectly to avoid the risk of infection because it seems that type and frequency of cleaning the premises and equipment is more important than the materials that are used.

Funding

This project was financed by DGEST-SEP (755.05-P).

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The authors thank the cattlemen who participated in this study and all of the help that they granted to the execution of this study.

Received: March 26, 2014; Accepted: September 17, 2014

*Corresponding author: Tel: + 52 55 4499161251 ext. 116 Email address: cruva18@yahoo.com.mx

None of the authors has any conflict of interest in regard with this article.

Dolores García Romo: Experimental design, field sampling, laboratory testing, writing of the article. Carlos Cruz Vázquez: Coordination of the group, experimental design, epidemiological analysis, drafting of the article. Teódulo Quezada Tristán: Field work, statistical analysis. Enrique Silva Peña: Field and laboratory work. Arturo Valdivia Flores: Field and laboratory work. Sonia Vázquez Flores: Parasitological test. Miguel Ramos Parra: Risk analysis.

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