Cryptosporidiosis has been reported in various reptile species. The disease is common in wild and captive populations of reptiles, and transmission occurs through the fecal-oral route. Infected reptiles may not show symptoms but are sporadic destroyers of oocysts (eggs). Clinical signs of crypto infection include regurgitation with abnormal distension of the gastric mucosa and weight loss.
Cryptosporidiosis can be difficult to diagnose. One method of diagnosis is the identification of oocysts in a stool sample by acid-fast staining. A negative acid-fast stain only indicates that the reptile was not shed at the time of sampling and does not indicate that the animal is Crypto-free. Standard practice is to test an animal three times before assuming it is disease-free. Endoscopy, including gastric lavage and biopsy, can also be used to diagnose this disease.
The most common species of cryptosporidiosis found in reptiles are C. serpentis, C. muris, and C. parvum. C. parvum ocysts (mouse-based) found were most likely from rodents ingested by reptiles and suggested to be the actual infection of Crypto. The possibility of C. parvum infecting reptiles can only be completely ruled out by further careful biological and genetic studies.
In March 1999, the St. Louis Zoo began a diagnostic-euthanasia program after chronic Cryptosporidium was found in snakes in its facilities. Snakes were periodically sampled over a year to monitor the effectiveness of control measures. In May and June 1999, 5 and 8 of 10 and 17 snake samples were positive for Crypto, respectively, immediately after the initiation of the control measure. Subsequently, only 1 of 45 snake samples taken at five different times was positive for Cryptosporidiosis.
Currently, there are no effective control strategies against Cryptosporidium in reptiles. In a small-scale study, it was demonstrated that snakes with clinical and subclinical Cryptosporidium can be effectively treated (untreated) with hyperimmune bovine colostrum raised against C. parvum. Control of cryptosporidiosis requires strict hygiene and quarantine of infected and exposed animals, but most choose to euthanize infected animals. The best way to prevent the spread of Crypto is to euthanize infected reptiles.
Crypto oocysts are only neutralized by exposure to moist heat between 113°F and 140°F for 5 to 9 minutes and disinfection with ammonia (5%) or formal saline (10%) for 18 hours. Ineffective disinfectants include idophores (1%-4%), cresylic acid (2.5% and 5%), sodium hypochlorite (3%), benzalkonium chloride (5% and 10%), and sodium hydroxide (0.02m). includes. Anything that may have come into contact with a potentially infected reptile should be thoroughly cleaned with an ammonia solution and allowed to dry for at least 3 days.