Deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) are abundant and widely distributed rodents in North America that occupy diverse habitats, including agricultural landscapes. Giardia and Cryptosporidium are common parasites in wildlife including deer mice, which may play a role in on-farm contamination of produce. An important step in assessing the risk of produce contamination by Cryptosporidium and Giardia shed by deer mice is to determine the prevalence, levels, and genotypes of (oo)cysts in mouse feces. A total of 63 (30.3%) and 53 (25.5%) of 208 deer mice trapped on 12 farms on the California Central Coast were positive for Cryptosporidium and Giardia, respectively. Of these mice, 41 (19.7%) contained both parasites. The odds of Cryptosporidium shedding were 2.5 to 5 times higher for mice trapped in autumn than for mice trapped in summer or spring. Female mice had a higher prevalence and two- to threefold higher levels of Cryptosporidium and Giardia compared with male mice. Female adults and female juveniles had the highest rates of contamination of the environment with Cryptosporidium and Giardia, respectively. We estimated that 20 infected deer mice inhabiting 1 ha of a typical leafy green produce farm in the study region could shed approximately 5.3 × 108 Cryptosporidium and 10.5 × 108 Giardia, respectively, per day into the environment. The small-subunit rRNA gene loci from a subset of protozoan isolates were sequenced and compared with existing sequences in GenBank. Multiple genotypes of Cryptosporidium and Giardia were found, and BLAST analyses suggest that Giardia and the majority of Cryptosporidium genotypes in deer mice circulate within various rodent populations, but some Cryptosporidium isolates possess zoonotic potential.

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