In pigs, three different trichomonad species (Tritrichomonas foetus, Tetratrichomonas buttreyi and Tritrichomonas rotunda) have been described as commensals in the large intestine. The aim of this study was to gain further knowledge on the prevalence and pathogenicity of trichomonads in pigs by using a morphology-based approach. Chromogenic in situ hybridization (ISH) is a technique which allows direct localization of the protozoa in the intestinal tissue and correlation of the infection with pathologic changes. In the present study paraffin-wax embedded colon and ileum samples of 192 pigs were analyzed with this method. Using a probe specific for all known members of the order Trichomonadida (OT) 100 of the 192 pigs were tested positive. Thereof, about 10% showed moderate to high-grade parasitic load with trichomonads invading the lamina propria. Partial 18S ribosomal RNA gene sequencing of six of those animals showed a 100% sequence identity with T. foetus sequences. The majority of these animals were also tested positive for other enteropathogenic agents, such as Brachyspira sp., Lawsonia intracellularis, Escherichia coli, and porcine circovirus type 2. All OT-positive samples were further examined with another probe complementary to all known Tritrichomonas species sequences including T. foetus, T. augusta, T. mobilensis and T. nonconforma resulting in only 48 positives. These results suggest that T. foetus may not only be considered as an intestinal commensal but rather a facultative pathogen of pigs with a tendency for tissue invasion in the presence of other agents. Furthermore, the existence of other – yet to be identified – trichomonad species in the colon of pigs was shown
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