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Title: Serological survey and risk factors for Toxoplasma gondii in domestic ducks and geese in Lower Saxony, Germany

item MAKSIMOV, P - Friedrich-Loeffler-institut
item BUSCHTONS, S - Friedrich-Loeffler-institut
item HERRMANN, D - Friedrich-Loeffler-institut
item CONRATHS, F - Friedrich-Loeffler-institut
item GORLICH, K - Hannover School Of Veterinary Medicine
item TENTER, A - Hannover School Of Veterinary Medicine
item Dubey, Jitender
item NAGEL-KOHL, U - State Office For Consumer Protection Of Saxony-Anhalt
item THOMS, B - State Office For Consumer Protection Of Saxony-Anhalt
item BOTCHER, L - State Office For Consumer Protection Of Saxony-Anhalt
item KUHNE, M - State Office For Consumer Protection Of Saxony-Anhalt
item SCHARES, G - Friedrich-Loeffler-institut

Submitted to: Veterinary Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2011
Publication Date: 12/1/2011
Citation: Maksimov, P., Buschtons, S., Herrmann, D.C., Conraths, F.J., Gorlich, K., Tenter, A.M., Dubey, J.P., Nagel-Kohl, U., Thoms, B., Botcher, L., Kuhne, M., Schares, G. 2011. Serological survey and risk factors for Toxoplasma gondii in domestic ducks and geese in Lower Saxony, Germany. Veterinary Parasitology. 182:140-149.

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 study, scientists report prevalence of Toxoplasma in ducks and geese in Germany and report new methods for diagnosis of toxoplasmosis in these hosts.The results will be of interest to biologists, parasitologists, and public health workers.

Technical Abstract: To obtain estimates for the prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii infection in ducks and geese in Germany, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) were established based on affinity-purified T. gondii tachyzoite surface antigen 1 (TgSAG1) and used to examine duck and goose sera for T. gondii -specific antibodies. The results of 186 sera from 60 non-infected ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) and 101 sera from 36 non-infected geese (Anser anser) as well as 72 sera from 11 ducks and 89 sera from 12 geese inoculated experimentally with T. gondii tachyzoites (intravenously) or oocysts (orally), were used to select a cut-off value for the TgSAG1-ELISA. Sera obtained by serial bleeding of experimentally inoculated ducks and geese were tested to analyze the time course of anti-TgSAG1 antibodies after inoculation and to assess the sensitivity of the assays in comparison with a T. gondii immunofluorescent antibody test (IFAT). In ducks, IFAT titres and ELISA indices peaked 2 and 5 weeks p.i with tachyzoites, respectively. By contrast, only three of six geese inoculated with tachyzoites at the same time as the ducks elicited a low and non-permanent antibody response as detected by the IFAT. In the TgSAG1-ELISA, only a slight increase of the ELISA indices was observed in four of six tachyzoite-inoculated geese. By contrast, inoculation of ducks and geese with oocysts led to a fast increase in anti-TgSAG1 antibodies, which were still detectable at the end of the observation period, i.e., 11 weeks p.i. Inoculation of three ducks and three geese with oocysts of Hammondia hammondi, a protozoon closely related to T. gondii, resulted in a transient seroconversion in ducks and geese as measured by IFAT or TgSAG1-ELISA. Using the newly established TgSAG1-ELISA, sera from naturally-exposed ducks and geese sampled in the course of a monitoring program for avian influenza were examined for antibodies to T. gondii; 145/2534 (5.7%) of the ducks and 94/373 (25.2%) of the geese had antibodies against TgSAG1. Seropositive animals were detected on 20 of of 61 duck and in 11 of 13 goose farms; the seroprevalences within positive submissions of single farms ranged from 2.2% to 78.6%. Farms keeping ducks or geese exclusively indoors had a significantly lower risk (odds ratio 0.05, 95% confidence interval 0.01-0.3) of harboring serologically positive animals as compared with farms where the animals had access to an enclosure outside the barn.