Submitted to: Veterinary Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2009
Publication Date: 2/10/2010
Citation: Garcia-Bocanegra, I., Dubey, J.P., Martinez, F., Vargas, A., Cabezon, O., Zorrilla, I., Arenas, A., Almeria, S. 2010. Factors affecting seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in the endangered Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). Veterinary Parasitology. 167:36-42. 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. In the present paper, scientists at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and from a University in Barcelona, report the prevalence of Toxoplasma from Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) from Spain; the Iberian lynx is the most endangered felid species in the world. The results will be of interest to biologists, parasitologists, and veterinarians.
Technical Abstract: Wild felids are considered important in maintaining the sylvatic cycle of Toxoplasma gondii. Although, T. gondii antibodies have been reported in several species of wild felids, little is known of the epidemiology and risk factors associated with T. gondii infection in wild cats. In the present study, seroprevalence and associated risk factors for T. gondii infection in a large population of Iberian lynx in Spain were determined. Serum samples from 129 Iberian lynx collected from 2005 to 2009 and 85 wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), sharing the habitat with the Iberian lynx, were tested for antibodies to T. gondii by the modified agglutination test (MAT) using a cut-off value of 1:25. Antibodies to T. gondii were found in 81 of 129 (62.8%) Iberian lynx. Seroprevalence to T. gondii in Iberian lynx significantly increased with age (P <0.001). T. gondii seroprevalences were similar in free-ranging (66.7% of 93) and wild-caught captive lynx (69% of 84) but significantly lower in captive-born lynx (22.5% of 40). Seroprevalence was higher in lynx with concurrent Cytauxzoon felis (88% of 25) but not with concurrent Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV) infection (53.8% of 13). There were no significant differences in seroprevalence between sexes, geographic region and year of sample collection (2005 to 2009). Oocysts of T. gondii were not detected microscopically in fecal samples from 58 lynx. Wild rabbits are considered the most important food for the lynx. Antibodies to T. gondii were found in 14 (11.9%) of 85 rabbits tested. The present results indicate that T. gondii infection is widespread in the two areas where Iberian lynx survive in Spain. The fact that four captive born lynx seroconverted was indication of contact with T. gondii also in the Captive Breeding Centers, hence, control measures to prevent T. gondii infection would be necessary in these centers.