Submitted to: Veterinary Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 21, 2004
Publication Date: July 10, 2004
Citation: Almeria, S., Calvete, C., Pages, A., Gauss, C., Dubey, J.P. 2004. Factors affecting the seroprevalence of toxoplasma gondii infection in wild rabbits.. Veterinary Parasitology 34:1157-1167.
Interpretive Summary: Infection by the single-celled parasite Toxoplasma gondii is common in livestock and humans. It causes abortion in livestock and mental retardation in children. Scientists at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and University of Barcelona, Spain report toxoplasma infection in wild rabbits for the first time. Cats can become infected by preying on rabbits and then excrete environmentally resistant oocysts in feces. These results will be of interest to biologists, parasitologists and veterinarians.
Sera from 456 wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) collected between 1992 and 2003 from 5 geographical regions of Spain were examined for antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii by the modified agglutination test. Antibodies to T. gondii were found in 65 (14.2%) wild rabbits. Prevalence of infection was significantly higher in samples collected from wild rabbits from Catalonia, Northeast Spain (53.8%), where rabbits lived in forest, compared to other areas (Huelva and Cádiz, Andalucía, South Spain; Toledo, Castilla-La Mancha, Central Spain; and Zaragoza, Aragón, Northeast Spain) with more dry conditions, where prevalence ranged from 6.1% to 14.6%. No differences were observed on prevalence and age (young animals <7 months of age compared to older animals), sex, date of samples collection or season of samples collection. The results indicate that prevalence of T. gondii in some areas of Spain is high, and this finding could have environmental and/or public health implications if wild rabbits are to be used as a source of food.