Submitted to: Journal of Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/1/2008
Publication Date: 2/10/2009
Citation: Prevalence of antibodies against Toxoplasma gondii in polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Svalbard and East Greenland. Journal of Parasitology. 95:89-94. Interpretive Summary: Toxoplasma gondii is a single-celled parasite of all warm-blooded hosts worldwide. It causes mental retardation and loss of vision in children, and abortion in livestock. Cats are the main reservoir of T. gondii because they are the only hosts that can excrete the resistant stage (oocyst) of the parasite in the feces. Humans become infected by eating undercooked meat from infected animals and food and water contaminated with oocysts. Scientists at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and an Institute in Norway report prevalence of Toxoplasma in polar bears. These findings will be of interest to biologists, public health workers and parasitologists.
Technical Abstract: Serum samples from 419 polar bears (Ursus maritimus) from Svalbard and the Barents Sea (collected 1990 - 2000) and 108 polar bears from East Greenland (collected 1999 - 2004) were assayed for antibodies against Toxoplasma gondii using the modified agglutination test (MAT). Antibody prevalences were 3.6 % among cubs dependent on their mothers, and 21.4 % among subadults and adults. Among subadults and adults, there was an interaction between population and sex, with similar prevalences among females (Svalbard = 19.5 %, Greenland = 18.0 %), but a high frequency among Svalbard males (28.7 %), as compared to Greenland males (5.8 %). The pattern was significant also after correcting for differences in age distribution. The sex-population interaction term is believed to be connected to area-and-sex-specific feeding ecology. The prevalences of antibodies against T. gondii in Svalbard and Greenland were high compared to previously reported findings in polar bear from the Russian and Alaskan areas.