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Detection of Toxoplasma gondii-specific antibodies in pigs using an oral fluid-based commercial ELISA: advantages and limitations

Toxoplasma gondii is a major food-borne parasite and undercooked meat of infected pigs represents an important source of infection for humans. Since infections in pigs are mostly subclinical, adequate diagnostic tests for use at the farm level are pursued. Oral fluid (OF) was shown to be a promising matrix for direct and indirect detection of infections with various pathogens in pigs. The objective of this study was to assess whether T. gondii infections in pigs could be diagnosed using an indirect ELISA kit adapted for OF samples (OF-ELISA). Routine serology and OF-immunoblot (IB) were used as standards for the comparison. For this, serial OF samples from sows (n = 8) and fatteners (n = 3) experimentally inoculated with T. gondii oocysts, individual field samples from potentially exposed sows (n = 9) and pooled OF samples from potentially exposed group-housed fatteners (n = 195 pig groups, including 2,248 animals) were analysed for antibodies against T. gondii by ELISA. For individual animals, OF-ELISA exhibited a relative diagnostic specificity of 97.3% and a relative diagnostic sensitivity of 78.8%. In experimentally infected animals, positive OF-ELISA results were observed from 1.5 weeks post inoculation (pi) until the end of the experimental setup (8 to 30 weeks pi); however, values below the estimated cut-off were occasionally observed in some animals despite constant seropositivity. In potentially exposed individual animals, OF- and serum-ELISA results showed 100% agreement. In group-housed fatteners, antibodies against T. gondii could be reliably detected by OF-ELISA in groups in which at least 25% of the animals were seropositive. This OF-ELISA, based on a commercially available serum-ELISA, may represent an interesting non-invasive screening tool for detecting pig groups with a high exposure to T. gondii at the farm level. The OF-ELISA may need further adjustments to consistently detect individual infected pigs, probably due to variations in OF antibody concentration over time.


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