A catchment-scale investigation of the prevalence of Cryptosporidium and Giardia in the Kuang River Basin was carried out during the dry and rainy seasons. Water samples were collected from the Kuang River and its tributaries as well as a major irrigation canal at the study site. We also investigated the prevalence of gastrointestinal parasitic infection among dairy and beef cattle hosts. Cryptosporidium and/or Giardia were detected in all the rivers considered for this study, reflecting their ubiquity within the Kuang River Basin. The high prevalence of Cryptosporidium/Giardia in the upper Kuang River and Lai River is of a particular concern as both drain into the Mae Kuang Reservoir, a vital source of drinking-water to many local towns and villages at the research area. We did not, however, detected neither Cryptosporidium nor Giardia were in the irrigation canal. The frequency of Cryptosporidium/Giardia detection nearly doubled during the rainy season compared to the dry season, highlighting the importance of water as an agent of transport. In addition to the overland transport of these protozoa from their land sources (e.g. cattle manure, cess pits), Cryptosporidium/Giardia may also be re-suspended from the streambeds (a potentially important repository) into the water column of rivers during storm events. Faecal samples from dairy and beef cattle showed high infection rates from various intestinal parasites - 97% and 94%, respectively. However, Cryptosporidium and Giardia were only detected in beef cattle. The difference in management style between beef (freeranging) and dairy cattle (confined) may account for this disparity. Finally, phylogenetic analyses revealed that the Cryptosporidium/Giardia-positive samples contained C. ryanae (non-zoonotic) as well as Giardia intestinalis assemblages B (zoonotic) and E (non-zoonotic). With only basic water treatment facilities afforded to them, the communities of the rural area relying on these water supplies are highly at risk to Cryptosporidium/Giardia infections.
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