Microbial eukaryotes (parasites/protists) are widely distributed and are common inhabitants of the gastro-intestinal (GI) tract of humans and animals. Some species, including Giardia, Entamoeba and Cryptosporidium are associated with symptomatic gastro-intestinal illness. However, others, for example Blastocystis, have questionable pathogenicity as they can be found in symptomatic and asymptomatic individuals. The aim of this study is to investigate selected protists which present health concerns to humans or animals. To date, approximately 180 faecal samples from 33 mammalian species, four bird species and one reptile across two wildlife parks in the Southeast England have been collected. A combination of cell culturing techniques, microscopy and molecular biology have been carried out to positively identify different protists including Blastocystis, Cryptosporidium, Eimeria, Entamoeba, Giardia and Isospora. Preliminary data show over fifty percent of the animals are sequence positive for at least one species, with approximately thirty percent exhibiting co-habitation with two or more different species. This study provides one of the first thorough investigations into distribution and prevalence of GI tract protists in wildlife parks in the UK. As a result, it has enhanced our awareness regarding what may constitute a normal eukaryotic component of the gut microbiome, in addition to aiding conservation efforts by examining the impact captivity has on an animal’s microbiome and potential implications this may have on their release.

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