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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #317392

Title: Toxoplasma gondii coinfection with diseases and parasites in wild rabbits in Scotland

item MASON, SAM - Non ARS Employee
item Dubey, Jitender
item SMITH, JUDITH - University Of Salford
item BOAG, BRIAN - The James Hutton Institute

Submitted to: Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/17/2015
Publication Date: 6/15/2015
Citation: Mason, S., Dubey, J.P., Smith, J., Boag, B. 2015. Toxoplasma gondii coinfection with diseases and parasites in wild rabbits in Scotland. Parasitology. doi: 10.1017/S003118201500075X.

Interpretive Summary: Human toxoplasmosis accounts for an estimated one-fifth of all diagnosed foodborne infections in the United States, and one fifth of the economic costs attributable to any foodborne pathogen. Pregnant women and their fetuses are exposed to elevated health risks. Wild herbivores, such as rabbits, provide a means to evaluate contamination of outdoor environments with oocysts of this parasite. In this field study, female rabbits were especially likely to be infected, possibly owing to suppression of immunity during pregnancy. Infection co-occurred especially frequently with another protozoan infection (liver coccidiosis), though it is uncertain whether this reflected an interaction between the two pathogens resulting in greater vulnerability, or whether animals likeliest to encounter one pathogen were similarly likeliest to encounter the second. These results will be useful for veterinarians, parasitologists, immunologists, and epidemiologists interested in understanding transmission risks attributable to the environmental stage of the agent of toxoplasmosis.

Technical Abstract: In wild rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) on an estate in Perthshire, central Scotland, the seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii was 18/548 (3.3 %). The wild rabbit could be a T. gondii reservoir and it has potential value as a sentinel of T. gondii in environmental substrates. T. gondii was associated with female sex (P<0.001) and with relatively heavy infections by Eimeria stiedae (P=0.036). It was not associated with the intensity of coccidial oocysts, the severity of myxomatosis caused by the virus Myxomatosis cuniculi, the intensity of roundworm eggs, the year or season, rabbit age or distance from farm buildings. Coinfections could have been affected by gestational down regulation of type 1 T helper cells. A sudden influx or release of T. gondii oocysts might have occurred. This is the first report of T. gondii in any wild herbivore in Scotland and also the first report of lapine T. gondii as a coinfection with E. stiedae, M. cuniculi and helminths.