A longitudinal survey was undertaken on an open farm to investigate the occurrence of Cryptosporidium species infection in orphan lambs obtained from three local flocks. During an initial pilot study, Cryptosporidium oocysts were detected by a fluorescent antibody test (fat) in the faeces of two of 21 lambs aged between one and three weeks derived from one flock (flock A). Pooled pen samples of faeces were collected weekly from lambs derived from each flock; oocysts were detected by fat in 24 (49·0 per cent) of 49 samples from lambs from flock A, 18 (30·5 per cent) of 59 samples from lambs from flock B and 14 (29·8 per cent) of 47 samples from lambs from flock C. Oocyst counts of 1 × 103 to more than 2 × 106 per gram of faeces were detected in lambs up to 12 weeks old, with the peak counts occurring at six weeks of age in the lambs from flocks A and B and at four weeks of age in those from flock C. The oocysts were confirmed by molecular analysis as Cryptosporidium parvum. Virtually all the infections were subclinical.
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