e. cuniculi (or encephalitozoon cunicui) is a tiny parasite which causes significant disease in rabbits and can occasionally affect immunosuppressed humans.
How is e. cunuculi spread?
Infected rabbits shed e. cuniculi spores in their urine. Other rabbits then ingest these spores in their food or water. Unborn baby rabbits may become infected during pregnancy.
Once the parasite has entered the body, it is carried in the blood stream to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. These infected cells will then rupture which causes inflammation and other clinical signs.
Only around 6% of infected rabbits will ever go on to develop clinical signs, the remainder will become carriers, shedding spores and infecting other rabbits.
What are the clinical signs of e. cuniculi?
When young rabbits are infected during pregnancy, the spores are able to cross into the rabbit’s eye which multiply and rupture causing cataracts and lens rupture which results in a painful condition called uveitis.
Clinical signs in adult rabbits can include a heat tilt, wobbliness and lack of co-ordination, neck spasms, urinary incontinence and kidney disease.
How is e. cuniculi diagnosed?
A blood test exists to confirm exposure but does not differentiate between active infection and an asymptomatic carrier rabbit. This has to be interpreted in combination with clinical signs and history.
What is the treatment for e. cuniculi?
The main object of treatment is to reduce inflammation in combination with drugs (such as panacur) to kill the parasite. How completely the rabbit responds, is generally based on the severity of infection at the time of diagnosis. E.caniculi can survive in the environment for up to a month but can be sensitive to routine disinfectants.
Introducing new rabbits.
If you are planning to introduce a new rabbit to your current pet, blood testing can be performed and, if negative repeated in one month, if either test positive, treat with panacur for 28 days once a day, before introducing the new pet.
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