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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 #373343

Research Project: Detection and Control of Foodborne Parasites for Food Safety

Location: Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory

Title: Epidemiological surveillance of Toxoplasma gondii in small ruminants in southern Spain

item JIMENEZ-MARTIN, DEBRA - Cordoba University
item GARCIA-BOCANEGRA, IGNACIO - Cordoba University
item ALMERIA, SONIA - Food And Drug Administration(FDA)
item CASTRO-SCHOLTEN, SABRINA - Cordoba University
item Dubey, Jitender
item AMARO-LOPEZ, MANUEL - Cordoba University
item CANO-TERRIZA, DAVID - Cordoba University

Submitted to: Preventive Veterinary Medicine
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/30/2020
Publication Date: 10/1/2020
Publication URL:
Citation: Jimenez-Martin, D., Garcia-Bocanegra, I., Almeria, S., Castro-Scholten, S., Dubey, J.P., Amaro-Lopez, M., Cano-Terriza, D. 2020. Epidemiological surveillance of Toxoplasma gondii in small ruminants in southern Spain. Preventive Veterinary Medicine. 183:105137.

Interpretive Summary: Food safety is of public health concern for the US Department of Agriculture and of worldwide importance. Toxoplasma is an important zoonotic parasite of worldwide distribution. The ingestion of undercooked meat containing the encysted parasites and food and water contaminated with oocysts from cat feces are the 2 most important means of transmission of the parasite. The ingestion of undercooked infected lamb has been identified as a risk factors for toxoplasmosis in humans, particularly, pregnant women. Here, the authors found that nearly half of the 998 sheep tested in 2015-2017 from Spain had been exposed to this parasite. Therefore, to prevent Toxoplasma infection, lamb should be cooked thoroughly before ingestion by humans. The results will be of interests to biologists, veterinarians, parasitologists and public health workers.

Technical Abstract: Toxoplasmosis, caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii, is a worldwide zoonotic disease, which affects most warm-blooded species. Besides the zoonotic relevance, toxoplasmosis is one of the major causes of reproductive disorders in small ruminants. A cross-sectional study was carried out to determine the seroprevalence, spatial distribution and risk factors associated with T. gondii infection in sheep and goats in southern Spain. During 2015 – 2017, a total of 1,943 small ruminants (998 sheep and 945 goats) from 127 flocks were tested for antibodies against T. gondii using the modified agglutination test (MAT, cut-off 1:25). Antibodies against T. gondii were detected in 464 of the 998 sheep (46.5%; CI95%: 43.4 – 49.6%) and 362 of the 945 goats (38.3%; CI95%: 35.2 – 41.4%) tested. The farm prevalence was 98.4% (CI95%: 95.4 – 100%) for sheep and 93.7% (CI95%: 87.6 – 99.7%) for goats. The generalized estimating equation (GEE) analysis showed that presence of cats, presence of dogs, existence of previous reproductive disorders and type of production (meat farms) were risk factors associated with T. gondii seropositivity in small ruminants. Two statistically significant spatial clusters (P < 0.001) were identified. The seroprevalence observed in the present study indicates a widespread exposure to T. gondii in sheep and goats in southern Spain, which might have important implications for animal and public health. Management measures should be implemented in small ruminant farms in this region to reduce the risk of T. gondii infections, particularly in those areas identified in the spatial analysis.