A total of 1180 faecal samples (528 from rabbits, 531 from chinchillas and 121 from guinea pigs) collected during 2006–2012 by veterinarians in Germany and in other European countries were submitted to a diagnostic laboratory for Giardia testing by means of coproantigen ELISA. Of these samples, 40 rabbits (7.6 per cent), 326 chinchillas (61.4 per cent) and five guinea pigs (4.1 per cent ) were found to be positive. To gain insights into the genetic identity of Giardia in small mammals, ELISA-positive samples from 23 chinchillas, five ferrets, a rabbit, and a Desmarest's hutia were investigated by PCR and sequencing of fragments of the small subunit ribosomal DNA (ssu), the triose phosphate isomerase (tpi) and the β-giardin (bg) genes. At the ssu locus, assemblage B was identified in 28 of 30 isolates, whereas assemblage A and D were each detected in one sample. The majority of isolates from chinchillas and those from ferrets had Giardia duodenalis sequences identical to sub-assemblages AI or BIV, based on either a single locus (tpi or bg) or multiple loci (tpi and bg). As sub-assemblages AI or BIV are associated with human infection, these results indicate that small mammals can act as reservoirs of cysts potentially infectious to humans.
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