Veterinary Physiology

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Transmission Dynamics of Cryptosporidium in Calves and Children from Southwestern Ethiopia

Sadik Zakir Abadura1* , Wubit Tafese1 , Abdu Mohamed1 , and Suresh Kumar Pnair2

1 School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia

2 Department of Biomedical Sciences, Institute of Health, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia * Corresponding author: Sadik Zakir Abadura, School of Veterinary Medicine, College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia. Email:


Introduction: Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite that can affect both humans and animals. The present study aimed to determine the prevalence and risk factors of cryptosporidiosis in bovine calves and children in Jimma, southwestern Ethiopia. This cross-sectional study was conducted from December 2019 to July 2020 to assess the prevalence and risk factors of the infection among calves younger than 1 year and children younger than 5 years. Materials and methods: Fecal samples were collected from 384 calves and 147 children and examined by the Modified Ziehl-Neelson staining method. Results: The overall prevalence was 8.1% in calves and 7.5% in children. The multivariable logistic regression analysis showed that the risk of Cryptosporidiosis was significantly higher in younger calves < 3 months followed by river water users and calves kept in dirty pens. Moreover, the analysis of children data indicated that the risk of Cryptosporidiosis was significantly higher in children >1 year, followed by children settled around the rural area, children whose family had a poor habit of handwashing after attending cattle, children whose their family had a high level of contact with calves, and children who were drinking river water. Conclusion: The present study revealed that the high prevalence of cryptosporidiosis may be due to poor hygienic status, unclean source of water, attending farm, and contact with calves or their feces. Generally, poor personal and dairy farm hygiene and drinking river water source were the factors contributing to the disease.


Cryptosporidiosis is a protozoan parasitic disease of humans and animals that commonly causes diarrheal disease. The Cryptosporidium belongs to the phylum Apicomplexa and it inhabits in the small intestine of a wide range of vertebrate hosts, such as calves, sheep, fishes, reptiles, and birds1,2. It results in an increase in morbidity and mortality of children in developing countries3-5. It was indicated that cryptosporidiosis is an emerging neglected zoonotic disease of public health concern6. The disease results in about 30-50% of deaths in neonatal calves and is a major cause of diarrhea and deaths in children1,2. Cryptosporidiosis leads to watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, mild fever, dehydration, and weight loss. It is a self-limiting disease and its recovery occurs within 2–3 weeks. In immune-competent individuals, it is more serious and can cause severe chronic diarrhea, weight loss, and death2,7. Due to the lack of appropriate treatment and vaccination, the Cryptosporidium infection leads to a higher mortality rate in humans and has become an emerging public health issue worldwide8. Poor health practices, illiteracy, limitation in drinking water supply, lack of sewage, and its management for drainage of human and animal waste disposals can substantiate the occurrences of this infection in the vulnerable populations of developing countries. The prevalence of Cryptosporidiosis is higher in developing countries 5.9-17%, compared to developed countries 0.1–2%9. Cryptosporidium produces tremendous numbers of resistant oocysts and is present in the environment, such as water bodies and lands. Animals and humans acquire the infection when they consume infested food and drinking water containing oocysts of these protozoa. Oocysts are infective for 2-6 months in the environment and are released with fecal matter during the onset of symptoms. They are shed 5 days after infection with an incubation period of 1 to 14 days. Oocysts are tolerant to several chemicals and disinfectants as well as chlorine as frequently used to treat drinking water, water parks, and swimming pools10. Waterborne outbreaks of Cryptosporidium oocysts due to the contamination of animal and human sewage discharge with drinking water are common among developing countries11. Several studies reported that the degree of pathogenicity and virulence is based on the immune status of the host, Cryptosporidium species, and ingested oocyst dose3,12. The infection begins with the release of sporozoites from the oocyst. These sporozoites attach and invade intestinal epithelial cells and promote their reproduction and cause impairment in the absorptive and secretory functions of the gut12. The modified Ziehl-Neelson technique is the gold standard for the detection of Cryptosporidium oocysts in fecal matters13. Regular sanitization, reduced number of animal density in the farms, separation of calves from other herds by keeping them in separate cattle sheds, and short calving periods of animals can reduce transmission of Cryptosporidiosis14. Appropriate health practices can prevent the outbreak of cryptosporidiosis15. Due to the lack of a universal treatment plan, the burden of this disease continues in high frequency among calves younger than 1 year, children younger than 5 years, and patients with HIV seropositive2,14. The previous reports from different parts of Ethiopia particularly in eastern, central, and northwest of Ethiopia indicated the importance of the disease in cattle and estimated the prevalence range from 2.3% to 27.8% in calves as a result of immature immunity, poor farm management, and hygienic condition18,19. Moreover, different studies indicated the significance of the disease in children due to immature immunity, contamination of drinking water, poor personal hygiene, and contact with domestic animals, especially with calves9,20. The prevalence of Cryptosporidiosis ranges between 3.3% and 14.8% in underfive years children in different countries21,23. Cryptosporidiosis is a zoonotic disease and is prevalent mainly in calves and children in Ethiopia, however, there is a limitation of inclusive information in the country, particularly in the studied area. As the disease is zoonotic, it is highly significant to study the transmission pattern among humans and animals. This type of study has not been conducted in and around Jimma town, southwest Ethiopia. Therefore, to design a cost-effective and appropriate preventive and control strategy, understanding the occurrences and risk factors of cryptosporidiosis in the interface between humans and animals is crucial. The current study was conducted from December 2019 to July 2020 with the objectives of assessing the occurrences and important contributing factors for cryptosporidiosis in calves and children in and around Jimma town, southwest Ethiopia.

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