Toxoplasma gondii infection in sentinel and free-range chickens from Argentina

This study aimed at isolating and genotyping Toxoplasma gondii from serologically positive free-range chickens from Argentina, and to evaluate the use of sentinel animals during a short time period of exposure to determine environmental contamination with T. gondii oocysts. Two groups of chickens on six farms were compared in this study: (i) young, 2-3 month-old broiler-type chickens reared as sentinel animals on the farms and (ii) adult chickens reared on the same farms for more than one year. Seroconversion rates of 7.0% or 5.7% were observed in sentinel broiler chickens reared for a period of 74 days (January-April 2010) or 88 days (August-November 2010) respectively, as shown by a T. gondii specific immunofluorescent antibody test. Fifty-three percent (17 of 32) of adult chickens were positive and showed higher titres than sentinel animals. Isolation of T. gondii from tissues (brain and heart) of serologically positive chickens was achieved from six of seven free-range adult birds with IFAT titres of 200 and higher. The isolated parasites were analysed by multi-locus polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP). The isolated T. gondii showed three different genotypes: two genotypes consisted in atypical allele combinations, and the remaining genotype had exclusively clonal type II alleles. All isolates obtained at a single farm, corresponded to the same genotype. The T. gondii genotypes observed are identical to those described in cats, dogs, chickens and capybaras elsewhere in South America. Two isolates, which showed different allele combinations in PCR-RFLP, were characterized in a mouse virulence assay. While one isolate showed a low virulence a second isolate was of intermediate virulence to mice.



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