Submitted to: Journal of Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: January 4, 1995
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Infection by the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii is widespread in humans and animals. This parasite causes abortion in livestock and mental retardation and loss of vision in children. Cats are the key in the transmission of T. gondii to humans and other animals because they are the only hosts that can shed the environmentally resistant Toxoplasma in feces (oocysts). Cats that have excreted oocysts once generally do not reshed oocysts. How long this immunity lasts is not known. A scientist at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center has found that 4 of 9 cats reshed oocysts following challenge infection 6 years after a primary infection. Results are of public health concern because cats can shed oocysts more than once in their life. Pregnant women should avoid contact with cat feces.
Technical Abstract: Cats that have shed Toxoplasma gondii oocysts are considered to be immune to reshedding of oocysts. To investigate if this immunity persists in cats for 6 yr, 12 4- to 6-mo-old cats without T. gondii antibodies were inoculated orally with tissue cysts of the ME-49 strain (6 cats) and the TS-2 strain (6 cats) of T. gondii. All of them shed > 20 million oocysts between 4 and 13 days after feeding tissue cysts. Two cats became ill between 11 and 13 days after primary infection; 1 died on the 13th day, and the other had to be killed on the 11th day because of generalized acute toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasma gondii oocysts were not found on the hair of 10 cats examined 7 days after cats had shed millions of oocysts. On day 39 after primary infection, 5 cats (2 infected with ME-49 strain and 3 infected with the TS-2 strain) were challenged orally with tissue cysts of the ME-49 strain. None of the challenged cats shed oocysts. One cat died due to causes unrelated to toxoplasmosis. Seventy-seven mo after primary infection, the remaining 9 cats were challenged orally with tissue cysts of the P89 strain of T. gondii. Four of these 9 cats reshed T. gondii oocysts; 3 of them had also been challenged at 39 days after primary infection. Two control cats housed together with chronically infected cats for 6 yr remained seronegative for T. gondii; both of these shed oocysts after challenge with the P89 strain.