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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 #322887

Title: Serology and genetics of Toxoplasma gondii in endangered Hawaiian (Nene) geese (Branta sandvicensis)

item WORK, THIERRY - Us Geological Survey (USGS)
item VERMA, SHIV - Orise Fellow
item SU, CHUNLEI - University Of Tennessee
item MEDEIROS, JOHN - State Of Hawaii
item KAIAKAPU, THOMAS - State Of Hawaii
item Dubey, Jitender

Submitted to: Journal of Wildlife Diseases
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/28/2016
Publication Date: 4/28/2016
Citation: Work, T.M., Verma, S., Su, C., Medeiros, J., Kaiakapu, T., Dubey, J.P. 2016. Serology and genetics of Toxoplasma gondii in endangered Hawaiian (Nene) geese (Branta sandvicensis). Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 52(2):253-7.

Interpretive Summary: Toxoplasmosis continues to be a public health problem 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 under cooked meat from infected animals and food and water contaminated with oocysts. The distribution of T.gondii coincides with the presence of cats, domestic and wild. Toxoplasmosis is lethal in host species evolved with the absence of cats. For example, toxoplasmosis is responsible for the demise of native Hawiian crow. In the present study, authors found that it can kill Nene geese native to Hawaii. They isolated unusual Toxoplasma strains from these birds. The results will be of interest to biologists, parasitologists, and veterinarians.

Technical Abstract: Toxoplasma gondii is parasite transmitted by feral cats that has historically caused mortality in native Hawaiian birds. A recent study revealed that this parasite accounts for ca. 4% of causes of mortality in native Hawaiian geese (nene-Branta sandvicensis). To know how widespread exposure to the parasite might be in nene, we did a serological survey for T. gondii and genetically characterized T. gondii DNA from the tissues of dead birds with confirmed infections by immunohistochemistry. Of 94 geese sampled, prevalence in the island of Kauai, Maui, and Molokai was 21, 23, and 48%. Two new T. gondii genotypes were identified by RFLP-PCR from four geese, and these were segregated geographically. Exposure to T. gondii in wild nene is widespread, and while the parasite is not a major cause of death, there is the possibility that it could have sublethal or behavioral effects. How to translate such information to implement effective ways to manage feral cats in Hawaii will pose significant challenges. Key words: Hawaiian goose, nene, Branta sandvicensis, Toxoplasma gondii, serology, genetics.