Prevalence and genotypes of Toxoplasma gondii in feline faeces (oocysts) and meat from sheep, cattle and pigs in Switzerland

The protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii infects almost all warm blooded animal species including humans, and is one of the most prevalent zoonotic parasites worldwide. Postnatal infection in humans is acquired through oral uptake of sporulated T. gondii oocysts or by ingestion of parasite tissue cysts upon consumption of raw or undercooked meat. This study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of oocyst-shedding by cats and to assess the level of infection with T. gondii in meat-producing animals in Switzerland via detection of genomic DNA (gDNA) in muscle samples. In total, 252 cats (44 stray cats, 171 pet cats, 37 cats with gastrointestinal disorders) were analysed coproscopically, and subsequently species-specific identification of T.gondii oocysts was achieved by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). Furthermore, diaphragm samples of 270 domestic pigs (120 adults, 50 finishing, and 100 free-range animals), 150 wild boar, 250 sheep (150 adults and 100 lambs) and 406 cattle (47 calves, 129 heifers, 100 bulls, and 130 adult cows) were investigated by T. gondii-specific real-time PCR. For the first time in Switzerland, PCR-positive samples were subsequently genotyped using nine PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) loci (SAG2, SAG3, BTUB, GRA6, c22-8, c29-2, L358, PK1 and Apico) for analysis. Only one of the cats shed T. gondii oocysts, corresponding to a T. gondii prevalence of 0.4% (95% CI: 0.0-2.2%). In meat-producing animals, gDNA prevalence was lowest in wild boar (0.7%; 95% Cl: 0.0-3.7%), followed by sheep (2.0%; 95% CI: 0.1-4.6%) and pigs (2.2%; 95% Cl: 0.8-4.8%). The highest prevalence was found in cattle (4.7%; 95% CI: 2.8-7.2%), mainly due to the high prevalence of 29.8% in young calves. With regard to housing conditions, conventional fattening pigs and free-range pigs surprisingly exhibited the same prevalence (2.0%; 95% Cl: 0.2-7.0%). Genotyping of oocysts shed by the cat showed T. gondii with clonal Type II alleles and the Apico 1 allele. T. gondii with clonal Type 11 alleles were also predominantly observed in sheep, while T. gondii with mixed or atypical allele combinations were very rare in sheep. In pigs and cattle however, genotyping of T. gondii was often incomplete. These findings suggested that cattle in Switzerland might be infected with Toxoplasma of the clonal Types I or III, atypical T. gondii or more than one clonal Type. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved



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