Submitted to: Journal of Wildlife Diseases
Publication Type: Research Notes
Publication Acceptance Date: September 24, 1994
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Infection by the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii is widespread in humans and livestock. It causes mental retardation and loss of vision in congenitally infected children and abortion in livestock. Cats are the main reservoir of infection because they are the only hosts that can excrete environmentally resistant oocyts in feces. Cats become infected mainly by eating tissues of animals infected with T. gondii. Scientists at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and the University of Georgia report the first confirmed case of fatal toxoplasmosis in wild turkeys. This report will be useful to wildlife biologists and veterinarians.
Toxoplasmosis was diagnosed in a free-ranging wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) from West Virginia. Gross findings included emaciation, splenomegaly, multifocal necrotizing hepatitis and splenitis, and crusting dermatitis on the head and the neck. Histologically, multifocal necrosis with monouclear inflammation was present in kidney, liver, spleen, heart, lungs, and pancreas. Toxoplasma gondii was confirmed in sections of liver by avidin biotin immunohistochemical analysis. Subsequently, a retrospective serosurvey of wild turkeys for T. gondii antibodies was conducted. An overall antibody prevalence rate of 10% was detected in 130 birds from 21 locations in the southeastern United States. While wild turkeys in the Southeast have T. gondii antibodies, this is only the second natural case of fatal toxoplasmosis reported, suggesting that wild turkeys infrequently develop clinical disease when infected with T. gondii.