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Title: Toxoplasmosis in sand cats (Felis margarita) and other animals in the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in the United Arab Emirates

item Dubey, Jitender
item PAS, A - United Arab Emirates
item CHELLAIAH, R - US Department Of Agriculture (USDA)
item Kwok, Oliver
item SU, C - University Of Tennessee

Submitted to: Veterinary Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/10/2010
Publication Date: 9/1/2010
Citation: Dubey, J.P., Pas, A., Chellaiah, R., Kwok, O.C., Su, C. 2010. Toxoplasmosis in sand cats (Felis margarita) and other animals in the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife in the United Arab Emirates. Veterinary Parasitology. 172:195-203.

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. This paper reports on mortality in Sand cats due to toxoplasmosis. The results will be of interest to biologists, parasitologists, public health workers, and veterinarians.

Technical Abstract: The Sand cat (Felis margarita) is a small-sized felid occurring in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Sand cat captive breeding program at the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife (BCEAW), Sharjah, UAE, has experienced high newborn mortality rates, and congenital toxoplasmosis was recently recognized as one of the causes of this mortality. In the present study, one 18 month old Sand cat died of acute toxoplasmosis-associated hepatitis and pneumonitis acquired after birth; T. gondii was demonstrated in histological sections which reacted with T. gondii polyclonal antibodies by immunohistochemistry (IHC). Antibodies to T. gondii were found in serum examined in 1:1600 dilution in the modified agglutination test (MAT); its two year old cage mate seroconverted (MAT titer 1:3200) at the same time. Another Sand cat with infection acquired congenitally was euthanized because of ill health when three years old in spite of prolonged clindamycin prophylaxis; the MAT titer was >1:3200, and T. gondii tissue cysts were found in brain, heart, ocular muscles and skeletal muscle, confirmed by IHC. A serological survey of other animals at the BCEAW revealed T. gondii antibodies in 4 of 4 Gordon’s wild cats (Felis sylvestris gordoni), 3 of 3 leopards (Panthera pardus nimr) 8 of 8 cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus soemerengi), 4 of 5 Arabian caracal (Caracal caracal schmitsi), 1 of 1 African caracal (Caracal caracal algira), 1 of 4 domestic cats (Felis catus), 3 of 3 Sand foxes (Vulpes rueppellii), 8 of 8 Blanford’s foxes (Vulpes cana), 8 of 14 Red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), 3 of 6 Long Eared hedgehogs (Hemiechinus auritus), 1 of 3 Brandt’s hedgehog (Paraechinus hypomelas), 1 of 2 Ethiopian hedgehog (Paraechinus aethiopicus), 3 of 6 striped Hyaena (Hyaena hyaena), 1 of 1 Small spotted genet (Genetta genetta dongolana), 2 of 3 Wolves (Canis lupus arabs), 5 of 7 Jackals (Canis aureus), and 2 of 2 White tailed mongoose (Ichneumia albicauda)) by MAT. T. gondii DNA was found by PCR of extracted DNA from liver and lung tissues in the 18-month old Sand cat that had died of acute toxoplasmosis, and PCR-RFLP genotyping at 10 genetic loci revealed that this T. gondii isolate has an atypical genotype, which was previously reported in T. gondii isolates of dogs from Sri Lanka. These results indicate that adult Sand cats can die of T. gondii infection, acquired congenitally or post-natally.