Cryptococcosis is a life-threatening fungal disease that infects humans and animals worldwide. Inhalation of fungal particles from an environmental source can cause primary infection of the respiratory system. As animals can be considered a sentinel for human diseases, the aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and molecular identity of Cryptococcus spp. in the nasal cavity of feral cats. Cats from 162 urban and rural feral cat colonies were sampled over 3 years. Of 766 cats from which nasal swabs were obtained, Cryptococcus spp. were recovered from 95 (12.6%), including 37 C. magnus (4.8%), 16 C. albidus (2.0%), 15 C. carnescens (1.9%), 12 C. neoformans (1.6%), as well as C. oeirensis (n = 3), C. victoriae (n = 3), C. albidosimilis (n = 2), Filobasidium globisporum (n = 2), C. adeliensis (n = 1), C. flavescens (n = 1), C. dimnae (n = 1), C. saitoi (n = 1), and C. wieringae (n = 1) with prevalence <1%. Thirteen Cryptococcus species were identified by polymerase chain reaction and sequencing of internal transcribed spacer amplicons. Statistical analysis did not identify any predisposing factors that contributed to nasal colonization (eg, sex, age, season, or habitat). Results suggest that asymptomatic feral cats may carry C. neoformans and other Cryptococcus species in their sinonasal cavity. Genotyping of the specific cryptococcal isolates provides a better understanding of the epidemiology of these yeasts.
Keywords: Cryptococcus neoformans; asymptomatic cat; nasal cavities; yeasts.
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