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Evaluation of the usefulness of an ELISA and protein electrophoresis in the diagnosis of Encephalitozoon cuniculi infection in rabbits

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  • 1 Division of Comparative Pathology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33101.
  • | 2 Division of Comparative Pathology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33101.
  • | 3 Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Wildlife Care Center, 3200 SW 4th Ave, Ft Lauderdale, FL 33315; and Exotic Pet Veterinary Services Inc, 4201 Taylor St, Hollywood, FL 33021.
  • | 4 Broward Avian & Exotic Animal Hospital, 611 NW 31st Ave, Pompano Beach, FL 33069.
  • | 5 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, FL 33101.

Abstract

Objective—To evaluate the usefulness of an antibody detection ELISA and protein electrophoresis (PE) for diagnosing Encephalitozoon cuniculi (ECUN) infection in pet rabbits.

Animals—203 pet rabbits.

Procedures—Serum and plasma samples from pet rabbits were submitted from veterinary clinics within the United States. Participating veterinarians completed a questionnaire that was used to classify rabbits as clinically normal (n=33), suspected of having an ECUN infection (103), or clinically abnormal but not suspected of having an ECUN infection (67). An ELISA for detection of serum or plasma IgG against ECUN was developed by use of commercially available reagents. Results of the ELISA and PE were used to detect ECUN infection.

Results—A high seroprevalence of antibody against ECUN was detected in all 3 groups of rabbits. In rabbits suspected of having an ECUN infection, the mean IgG titer was 1.7 times as high as the values in the other rabbit groups. Rabbits suspected of having an ECUN infection and those that were simply clinically abnormal had a higher concentration of γ-globulins than clinically normal rabbits. This increase in globulins concentration was accompanied by a decrease in the albumin-to-globulin ratio. Results of the ELISA and PE were significantly different between clinically normal rabbits and those suspected of having an ECUN infection.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The combination of an ELISA and PE may aid in the diagnosis of ECUN infection in pet rabbits.

Impact for Human Medicine—Because ECUN is a potential zoonotic agent, diagnostic methods for pet rabbits need to be improved to protect human health.

Contributor Notes

The authors thank Dr. Molly Varga for her technical expertise.

Address correspondence to Dr. Cray.