Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) captured in the estuarine waters off the coasts of South Carolina and Florida were examined for the presence of Microsporidia, Cryptosporidium sp., and Giardia sp. DNA extracted from feces or rectal swabs was amplified by polymerase chain reaction using parasite-specific small subunit ribosomal RNA gene primers. All positive specimens were subjected to gene sequence analysis. Of 83 dolphins, 17 were positive for Microsporidia. None was positive for Cryptosporidium or Giardia. Gene sequence data for each of the positive specimens were compared with data in GenBank. Fourteen specimens were found similar to, but not identical to, the microsporidian species Kabatana takedai, Tetramicra brevifilum, and Microgemma tinca, reported from fish, and possibly represent parasites of fish eaten by dolphins. Gene sequence data from 3 other specimens had ∼87% similarity to Enterocytozoon bieneusi, a species known primarily to infect humans and a variety of terrestrial mammals, including livestock, companion animals, and wildlife. It is not clear if these specimens represent a species from a terrestrial source or a closely related species unique to dolphins. There were neither clinical signs nor age- or gender-related patterns apparent with the presence of these organisms.
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