Giardia duodenalis and Cryptosporidium occurrence in Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) exposed to varied levels of human interaction

Tiffany C. Delport*, Amy J. Asher, Linda J. Beaumont, Koa N. Webster, Robert G. Harcourt, Michelle L. Power

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Giardia and Cryptosporidium are amongst the most common protozoan parasites identified as causing enteric disease in pinnipeds. A number of Giardia assemblages and Cryptosporidium species and genotypes are common in humans and terrestrial mammals and have also been identified in marine mammals. To investigate the occurrence of these parasites in an endangered marine mammal, the Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea), genomic DNA was extracted from faecal samples collected from wild populations (n = 271) in Southern and Western Australia and three Australian captive populations (n = 19). These were screened using PCR targeting the 18S rRNA of Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Giardia duodenalis was detected in 28 wild sea lions and in seven captive individuals. Successful sequencing of the 18S rRNA gene assigned 27 Giardia isolates to assemblage B and one to assemblage A, both assemblages commonly found in humans. Subsequent screening at the gdh and β-giardin loci resulted in amplification of only one of the 35 18S rRNA positive samples at the β-giardin locus. Sequencing at the β-giardin locus assigned the assemblage B 18S rRNA confirmed isolate to assemblage AI. The geographic distribution of sea lion populations sampled in relation to human settlements indicated that Giardia presence in sea lions was highest in populations less than 25 km from humans. Cryptosporidium was not detected by PCR screening in either wild colonies or captive sea lion populations. These data suggest that the presence of G. duodenalis in the endangered Australian sea lion is likely the result of dispersal from human sources. Multilocus molecular analyses are essential for the determination of G. duodenalis assemblages and subsequent inferences on transmission routes to endangered marine mammal populations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)269-275
    Number of pages7
    JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2014


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