Serological survey and risk factors for Toxoplasma gondii in domestic ducks and geese in Lower Saxony, Germany

To obtain estimates for the prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii infection in ducks and geese in Germany, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) were established based on affinity-purified T. gondii tachyzoite surface antigen 1 (TgSAG1) and used to examine duck and goose sera for T gondii-specific antibodies. The results of 186 sera from 60 non-infected ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) and 101 sera from 36 non-infected geese (Anser anser) as well as 72 sera from 11 ducks and 80 sera from 12 geese inoculated experimentally with T. gondii tachyzoites (intravenously) or oocysts (orally) and positive in a T. gondii immunofluorescent antibody test (IFAT) were used to select a cut-off value for the TgSAG1-ELISA. Sera obtained by serial bleeding of experimentally inoculated ducks and geese were tested to analyze the time course of anti-TgSAG1 antibodies after inoculation and to assess the sensitivity of the assays in comparison with IFAT. In ducks, IFAT titres and ELISA indices peaked 2 and 5 weeks p.i. with tachyzoites, respectively. Only three of six geese inoculated with tachyzoites at the same time as the ducks elicited a low and non-permanent antibody response as detected by the IFAT. In the TgSAG1-ELISA, only a slight increase of the ELISA indices was observed in four of six tachyzoite-inoculated geese. By contrast, inoculation of ducks and geese with oocysts led to an increase in anti-TgSAG1 antibodies within 1 or 2 weeks, which were still detectable at the end of the observation period, i.e., 11 weeks p.i. inoculation of three ducks and three geese with oocysts of Hammondia hammondi, a protozoon closely related to T. gondii, resulted in a transient seroconversion in ducks and geese as measured by IFAT of TgSAG1-ELISA. Using the newly established TgSAG1-ELISA, sera from naturally-exposed ducks and geese sampled in the course of a monitoring program for avian influenza were examined fro antibodies to T. gondii; 145/2534 (5.7%) of the ducks and 94/373 (25.2%) of the geese had antibodies against TgSAG1. Seropositive animals were detected on 20 of 61 duck and in 11 of 13 goose farms; the seroprevalence within positive submissions of single farms ranged from 2.2% to 78.6%. Farms keeping ducks or geese exclusively indoors had a significantly lower risk (odds ratio 0.05, 95% confidence interval 0.01-0.3) of harboring serologically positive animals as compared with farms where the animals had access to an enclosure outside the barn.



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