Development of an in vivo model for Toxoplasma gondii infections in chickens and turkeys simulating natural routes of infection
Turkeys and chickens were orally infected with tissue cysts (one mouse brain) or oocysts (103, 105 or 106 oocysts) of three T. gondii strains of the clonal types II and III (ME49, CZ-Tiger, NED) to investigate the influence of the applied T. gondii strain and infective doses on the distribution of T. gondii in several organs and tissues and the serologic response of chickens and turkeys. Organ samples from 16 different tissues, including heart, brain, muscles and gizzard were analyzed by PCR. Brain and heart were found most frequently positive for T. gondii DNA in both species, followed by gizzard. Serological analysis with kinetic ELISA for turkey samples and IFAT for chicken samples were performed once a week. In both species a dose-depending serological response was found. Turkeys seroconverted one week after infection with CZ-Tiger strain and medium and high doses of ME49 oocysts. In chickens, infection with medium and high doses of CZ-Tiger led to seroconversion one week p.i. Frequency of T. gondii positive organs showed a trend of a dose-effect in both species after infection with the type II strains. The NED strain showed low virulence in chickens and turkeys, demonstrated by clearly less T. gondii positive organs. Infection with tissue cysts of all three strains revealed T. gondii stages in tissues of turkeys and chickens. In conclusion, our data show a risk for human infection with T. gondii due to consumption of chicken and turkey meat.