Detection and prevalence of protozoan parasites in ready-to-eat packaged salads on sale in Italy

Tiziana Caradonna, Marianna Marangi, Federica Del Chierico, Nicola Ferrari, Sofia Reddel, Giorgia Bracaglia, Giovanni Normanno, Lorenza Putignani, Annunziata Giangaspero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To investigate the prevalence of protozoan contamination by Giardia duodenalis, Cryptosporidium spp., Toxoplasma gondii and Cyclospora cayetanensis, in ‘ready to eat’ (RTE) salads on sale in Italy, 648 packages were purchased from industrial and local brands. Nine individual packages from each brand were collected per month, pooled and subjected to microscopy and molecular analyses. Microscopic examination of 864 slides detected Cryptosporidium spp. but also Blastocystis hominis and Dientamoeba fragilis. Molecular tools identified G. duodenalis assemblage A, Cryptosporidium parvum and Cryptosporidium ubiquitum, T. gondii Type I and C. cayetanensis. B. hominis and D. fragilis were also molecularly confirmed. The overall prevalence of each protozoan species was 0.6% for G. duodenalis, 0.8% for T. gondii, 0.9% for Cryptosporidium spp., and 1.3% for C. cayetanensis, while prevalence for B. hominis was 0.5% and for D. fragilis 0.2%. Microscopy and/or molecular tools revealed that 4.2% of the samples were contaminated by at least one protozoan species, and 0.6% of samples presented contamination by two protozoan species, with a number of oocysts ranging from 62 to 554 per g of vegetable matter for T. gondii, and 46 to 1.580 for C. cayetanensis. This is Europe's first large-scale study on the presence of protozoans in packaged salads, and shows that RTE sanitation processes do not guarantee a product free from protozoans of fecal origin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-75
Number of pages9
JournalFood Microbiology
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Italy
  • Prevalence
  • Protozoans
  • Ready-to-eat salads

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Food Science


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