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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 #378020

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

Location: Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory

Title: Recent epidemiologic and clinical importance of Toxoplasma gondii infections in marine mammals: 2009-2020

item Dubey, Jitender
item MURATA, FERNANDO - Non ARS Employee
item Kwok, Oliver

Submitted to: Veterinary Parasitology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/24/2020
Publication Date: 12/1/2020
Publication URL:
Citation: Dubey, J.P., Murata, F.H., Cerqueira-Cezar, C.K., Kwok, O.C. 2020. Recent epidemiologic and clinical importance of Toxoplasma gondii infections in marine mammals: 2009-2020. Veterinary Parasitology. 288:109296.

Interpretive Summary: Food safety research is of paramount importance for agriculture and the public. Foodborne protozoon infections are a leading cause of death from foodborne illness in the United States, especially for individuals with weak immune systems such as children and HIV patients. USDA research in this area has borne undeniable results – including helping to cut the prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii by as much as 50 percent in the United States. The USDA provided the veterinary, clinical, and public health communities an indispensable resource by disseminating up to date scientific information on toxoplasmosis and its prevention. Humans become infected mostly by ingesting food and water contaminated with oocysts or by eating infected under cooked meat. Marine mammals are excellent sentinels of environmental contamination with T. gondii oocysts. Toxoplasmosis also causes fatal infections in several marine mammals including endangered sea otters and Hawaiian monk seal. Certain marine species (for example seals) serve as food for humans. Here, the authors have reviewed T. gondii infections in marine mammals for the past decade. This information will support veterinarians, physicians, and federal agencies seeking to advance additional research needed in this area regarding human health.

Technical Abstract: Toxoplasma gondii infections are common in humans and animals worldwide. T. gondii causes mortality in several species of marine mammals, including endangered sea otters (Enhydra lutris) and Hawaiian monk seal (Monachus schauinslandi). Marine mammals could serve as sentinels of environmental contamination of marine waters by T. gondii oocysts. Marine mammals also serve as food for humans. The present review summarizes worldwide information on the prevalence of clinical and subclinical infections, epidemiology, and genetic diversity of T. gondii in marine mammals in the past decade. The role of genetic types of T. gondii and clinical disease is discussed. This review will be of interest to biologists, parasitologists, veterinarians, and public health workers.