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Vet Parasitol. 2006 Nov 30;142(1-2):47-53. Epub 2006 Jul 28.

Biologic and genetic characteristics of Toxoplasma gondii isolates in free-range chickens from Nicaragua, Central America.

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  • 1United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, Building 1001, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350, USA. jdubey@anri.barc.usda.gov


The prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in free-ranging chickens is a good indicator of the prevalence of T. gondii oocysts in the soil because chickens feed from the ground. The prevalence of T. gondii in 98 free-range chickens (Gallus domesticus) from Nicragua was determined. Antibodies to T. gondii were assayed by the modified agglutination test (MAT), and found in 84 (85.7%) of 98 chickens with titers of 1:5 in 10, 1:10 in eight, 1:20 in seven, 1:40 in nine, 1:80 in 11, 1:160 in one, 1:200 in 27, 1:400 in six, 1:800 four, and 1:3200 in one bird. Hearts and brains of 32 chickens with titers of 1:10 or less were pooled and fed to three T. gondii-free cats. Hearts and brains of 66 chickens with titers of 1:20 or higher were bioassayed in mice. Feces of cats were examined for oocysts. The cat fed tissues from eight chickens with titers of 1:10 shed T. gondii oocysts. The two cats fed tissues of 24 chickens with titers of 1:5 or less did not shed oocysts. T. gondii was isolated by bioassay in mice from 47 chickens with MAT titers of 1:20 or higher. All infected mice from six isolates died of toxoplasmosis. Overall, 41 of 170 (24.1%) mice that became infected after inoculation with chicken tissues died of toxoplasmosis. Genotyping of these 48 isolates (47 from mice and 1 from pooled tissues) using polymorphisms at the loci SAG1, SAG2, SAG3, BTUB and GRA6 revealed eight genotypes. Six isolates had Type I alleles, three isolate had Type II alleles and six isolates had Type III alleles at all loci. Four isolates had mixed infections. Two isolates have a unique allele at SAG1 locus and combination of I and III alleles at other loci. The rest 27 isolates contained the combination of Type I and III alleles and were divided into four genotypes. More than one genotypes were often isolated in chickens from the same household, indicating multiple genotypes were circulating in the same environment. This may explain the high frequency of mixed infections observed. High rate of mixed infection in intermediate hosts such as chickens may facilitate genetic exchange between different parasite lineages in definitive feline hosts. This is the first report of genetic characterization of T. gondii isolates from Nicragua, Central America.

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