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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 #379849

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

Location: Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory

Title: Epidemiologic and public health signifcance of Toxoplasma gondii infections in venison: 2009-2020

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

Submitted to: Journal of Parasitology
Publication Type: Literature Review
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/1/2021
Publication Date: 4/22/2021
Citation: Dubey, J.P., Murata, F., Cezar, C., Kwok, O.C. 2021. Epidemiologic and public health signifcance of Toxoplasma gondii infections in venison: 2009-2020. Journal of Parasitology. 107(2):309-319.

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 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. Outbreaks in the United States and Canada have occurred in people who ate undercooked venison. Here, we review literature on toxoplasmosis in deer and other cervids. 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. The ingestion of food or water contaminated with oocysts excreted by infected cats or ingestion of uncooked or undercooked meat containing tissue cysts of T. gondii are the 2 major modes of transmission of T. gondii. Deer are a popular game. Recently, outbreaks of clinical toxoplasmosis were reported in humans in North America linked to ingestion of undercooked venison. Here, we review prevalence, persistence of infection, clinical disease, epidemiology, and public health risks of T. gondii infections in deer and other cervids for the past decade. Estimates of worldwide serological prevalence is summarized individually for each species of deer, elk, moose, and caribou. Genetic diversity of 112 viable isolates of T. gondii from cervids is discussed including its public health significance. Prevalence of T. gondii in deer is very high. Any part of deer, including liver, spleen and muscles should be cooked thoroughly before human consumption.