We examined the occurrence of 2 virus-like double-stranded (ds)RNAs in human and calf isolates of Cryptosporidium parvum senso latu and other microorganisms, including 7 other members of the genus. A total of 32 isolates of C. parvum, 16 from humans (5 from acquired immune deficiency syndrome patients) and 16 from calves, were analyzed. Ethidium bromide staining, or Northern blot analysis, or reverse transcription/polymerase chain reaction, or all 3 methods, revealed that both genotype 1 and genotype 2 isolates of C. parvum possessed these dsRNAs. No other Cryptosporidium spp. or other organisms examined possessed these dsRNAs. Comparison analysis of partial cDNA sequences of dsRNAs from human and calf isolates revealed a high degree of similarity (>92% and >93% identical nucleotides for large and small dsRNAs, respectively). Slight, consistent differences in nucleotide sequences could be seen at select sites and were associated with an isolate being either genotype 1 or 2. Because of the widespread distribution of the dsRNAs, the similarity of these molecules between isolates, and high host specificity, these nucleic acids may prove to represent species-specific molecular markers for C. parvum. Evidence also suggests that the dsRNA can be utilized for molecular genotyping of C. parvum.

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