Serological survey for antibodies to Encephalitozoon cuniculi in pet rabbits in Italy.
Pet rabbits (n=125) from Southern Italy were submitted to a serological screening for Encephalitozoon cuniculi, using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and a carbon immunoassay (CIA). Seventy-eight examined rabbits showed clinical signs suggestive of encephalitozoonosis (head tilt, ataxia, paralysis, cataracts, uveitis, polyuria and polydipsia), whereas 47 were healthy rabbits. Antibodies anti-E. cuniculi were found in 84/125 (67.2%) sera analysed. The results of the chi-squared test showed that sex and health status had no significant effect (P>0.05) on E. cuniculi seropositivity; however, rabbits older than 4 months had a seropositivity for E. cuniculi significantly (P<0.05) higher than that of rabbits aged up to 4 months. The results of the present survey reinforce the assumption that rabbit may be indicated as the main reservoir of E. cuniculi; therefore, routine screening examinations in pet rabbits are strongly advised considering the zoonotic potential of this parasite.