There is no gold standard diagnostic test for the detection of bovine cryptosporidiosis. Infection is usually highest in 2-week-old calves, and these calves also excrete high numbers of oocysts. These factors may give rise to variations in the sensitivity and specificity of the various diagnostic tests used to detect infection in calves of various ages. An age-stratified Bayesian analysis was carried out to determine the optimum diagnostic test to identify asymptomatic and clinical Cryptosporidium sp. infection in neonatal calves. Fecal samples collected from 82 calves at 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, and 4 weeks of age were subjected to the following tests: microscopic examination of smears stained with either phenol-auramine O or fluorescein isothiocyanate (FITC)-conjugated anti-Cryptosporidium monoclonal antibody, nested-PCR, and quantitative real-time PCR. The results confirmed a high prevalence of Cryptosporidium sp. infection, as well as a high level of oocyst excretion, in 2-week-old calves. The sensitivities of all the tests varied with the age of the calves. Quantitative real-time PCR proved to be the most sensitive and specific test for detecting infection irrespective of the age of the calf. The microscopic techniques were the least sensitive and exhibited only moderate efficiency with 2-week-old calves excreting large numbers of oocysts, the majority of which were diarrheic. It was concluded that, when interpreting the results of routine tests for bovine cryptosporidiosis, cognizance should be taken of the sensitivity of the tests in relation to the age of the calves and stage of infection.
De Waele, V., Berzano, M., Berkvens, D., Speybroeck, N., Lowery, C., Mulcahy, G. M., & Murphy, T. M. (2011). Age-Stratified Bayesian Analysis To Estimate Sensitivity and Specificity of Four Diagnostic Tests for Detection of Cryptosporidium Oocysts in Neonatal Calves. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 49(1), 76-84. https://doi.org/10.1128/JCM.01424-10