Detection and dissemination of Toxoplasma gondii in experimentally infected calves, a single test does not tell the whole story
Background Although the detection of Toxoplasma gondii in bovine tissues is rare, beef might be an important source of human infection. The use of molecular techniques, such as magnetic capture qPCR (MC-qPCR), in combination with the gold standard method for isolating the parasite (mouse bioassay), may increase the sensitivity of T. gondii detection in infected cattle. The risk of transmission of the parasite to humans from undercooked/raw beef is not fully known and further knowledge about the predilection sites of T. gondii within cattle is needed. In the current study, six Holstein Friesian calves (Bos taurus) were experimentally infected with 106 T. gondii oocysts of the M4 strain and, following euthanasia (42 dpi), pooled tissues were tested for presence of the parasite by mouse bioassay and MC-qPCR. Results Toxoplasma gondii was detected by both MC-qPCR and mouse bioassay from distinct pools (100 g) of tissues comprising: liver, tongue, heart, diaphragm, semitendinosus (hindlimb), longissimus dorsi muscle (sirloin) and psoas major muscle (fillet). When a selection of individual tissues which had been used for mouse bioassay were examined by MC-qPCR, parasite DNA could only be detected from two animals, despite all calves showing seroconversion after infection. Conclusions It is apparent that one individual test will not provide an answer as to whether a calf harbours T. gondii tissue cysts. Although the calves received a known number of infectious oocysts and highly sensitive methods for the detection of the parasite within bovine tissues were applied (mouse bioassay and MC-qPCR), the results confirm previous studies which report low presence of viable T. gondii in cattle and no clear predilection site within bovine tissues.