Submitted to: Journal of the Alabama Academy of Sciences
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: June 12, 1997
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: Infection by the protozoan (single celled) parasite Toxoplasma gondii is widespread in humans and livestock. Humans become infected by ingesting resistant forms of T. gondii (oocysts) excreted in feces of infected cats or by ingesting T. gondii (encysted) tissue cysts in edible tissues of animals. The role of the wildlife in the epidemiology of T. gondii is not clear. Scientists at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and the Auburn University have surveyed wild animals for T. gondii and they found viable T. gondii in 4 of 21 (19%) hearts of white-tailed deer, 8 of 16 (50%) wild turkeys and 3 of 3 (100%) bobcats. The results indicate that T. gondii is widespread in wildlife in Alabama and hygienic precautions should be taken when handling meat from wild animals.
Toxoplasma gondii is an important protozoal parasite of man, domestic and wild animals. The parasite is transmitted by consumption of infected tissue, by ingestion of the resistant oocyst stage excreted in the feces of cats, or transplacentally. Infection with this parasite can cause severe disease in congenitally infected children and in immunocompromised individuals. It is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in AIDS patients. We examined the prevalence of this parasite in wildlife and exotic species from Alabama from 1989 to 1996. Infection with this parasite was common in white-tailed deer and wild turkeys. These species are hunted for food and may be a source of human infections. Infection was also common in raptors and the wild canivors/omnivores examined. Llamas and emus were also commonly infected with T. gondii.