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Zoonotic Enteric Parasites in Mongolian People, Animals, and the Environment: Using One Health to Address Shared Pathogens

July 30, 2021

By: Amber Barnes

Humans and animals share our environment and our parasites. Zoonotic enteric parasites such as Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia duodenalis can be transmitted through contaminated food, water, hands, fomites, and insect vectors.

A One Health team with partners from Duke University and the Institute of Veterinary Medicine in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia examined the presence of these enteric parasites among Mongolian household members, domestic animals, drinking water, and flies.

Team members Amber N. Barnes (United States), Anu Davaasuren (Mongolia), and Uyanga Baasandavga (Mongolia) collected over a thousand samples from 250 households in rural, peri-urban, and urban home sites. A household survey was also administered to determine risk factors associated with water, sanitation, and hygiene, and GPS points at each sample location were recorded to create a map of the study sites. Greg C. Gray and Battsetseg Gonghigoo served as project supervisors for the international work.

DNA extraction was completed on the samples and multiplex real-time PCR was conducted to determine the presence of Cryptosporidium spp., Giardia duodenalis, or both at each household. Co-author Paul Lantos conducted spatial analysis of the positive households to investigate regional variation in parasite presence in humans.

20% of the households (n = 51) had a least one sample positive for Cryptosporidium spp. and/or Giardia duodenalis. 19% of the households that had a positive sample demonstrated polyparasitism and 8% had positive human and animal samples at the same time. Overall, parasite prevalence was found in 6% of the human stool samples, 3% of the animal stool samples, 2% of the drinking water samples, and almost 15% of the fly pools. A significant risk factor for household parasite prevalence was using an unimproved/unsafe drinking water source. The spatial distribution of positive human samples does not appear to be influenced by whether other positive samples were also found at the home and therefore reveals opportunities for further work in this area to explain parasite presence.

While this study has helped shed light onto the parasitic burden among Mongolian households and associated risk factors for disease exposure, more One Health research is necessary to understand how people, animals, and their environment may be facilitating zoonotic parasite transmission. A deeper comprehension of these disease pathways will help guide public and veterinary health in their efforts to prevent and control zoonotic enteric parasites in Mongolia.

The full article can be found here.

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