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Cryptosporidium in fish: alternative sequencing approaches and analyses at multiple loci to resolve mixed infections



Currently, the systematics, biology and epidemiology of piscine Cryptosporidium species are poorly understood. Here, we compared Sanger ‒ and next-generation ‒ sequencing (NGS), of piscine Cryptosporidium, at the 18S rRNA and actin genes. The hosts comprised 11 ornamental fish species, spanning four orders and eight families. The objectives were: to (i) confirm the rich genetic diversity of the parasite and the high frequency of mixed infections; and (ii) explore the potential of NGS in the presence of complex genetic mixtures. By Sanger sequencing, four main genotypes were obtained at the actin locus, while for the 18S locus, seven genotypes were identified. At both loci, NGS revealed frequent mixed infections, consisting of one highly dominant variant plus substantially rarer genotypes. Both sequencing methods detected novel Cryptosporidium genotypes at both loci, including a novel and highly abundant actin genotype that was identified by both Sanger sequencing and NGS. Importantly, this genotype accounted for 68·9% of all NGS reads from all samples (249 585/362 372). The present study confirms that aquarium fish can harbour a large and unexplored Cryptosporidium genetic diversity. Although commonly used in molecular parasitology studies, nested PCR prevents quantitative comparisons and thwarts the advantages of NGS, when this latter approach is used to investigate multiple infections.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Vector- and Water-Borne Pathogen Research Group, School of Veterinary & Life Sciences, Molecular and Biomedical Sciences, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch WA, 6150, Australia. E-mail:


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Cryptosporidium in fish: alternative sequencing approaches and analyses at multiple loci to resolve mixed infections



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