The aim of this work was to evaluate the effect of pasteurization and coagulation during goat cheese production on the infectivity of Encephalitozoon cuniculi spores for immunodeficient (SCID, CD4-/-, and CD8-/-) and immunocompetent (BALB/c and C57BL/6) mice. Goat milk and fecal samples were screened for the presence and quantity of microsporidial DNA using molecular methods. Experimentally produced cheese from E. cuniculi-enriched goat milk or goat cheese purchased from retail producers was fed with experimental mice susceptible to E. cuniculi infection. The mice were sacrificed in the presumed acute phase of infection and samples of their tissues were subject to molecular detection of specific E. cuniculi DNA. Specific DNA of E. cuniculi genotype II was detected in feces and milk of three out of 99 goats kept on 6 farms in the Czech Republic. Under experimental conditions, spores of E. cuniculi genotype II remained viable in artificially enriched fresh cheese and were able to cause infection in laboratory mice. E. cuniculi genotype I and II DNA were detected in eight of the nine goat cheeses purchased from various producers/breeders in the Czech Republic and these cheeses were able to develop infection in both immunodeficient and immunocompetent mice. The results of these experiments showed that spores of E. cuniculi genotype I and II are able to remain viable after cheese processing and thus fresh and soft cheeses should be considered a potential source of microsporidia.
Keywords: cheese processing; coagulation; experimental infection; foodborne disease; infectivity.