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Vet Parasitol. 2009 Jul 7;163(1-2):1-14. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.02.026. Epub 2009 Mar 13.

Toxoplasmosis in sheep--the last 20 years.

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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.


Sheep are important to the economy of many countries because they are a source of food for humans. Sheep are commonly infected with the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. Infection with the parasite may cause early embryonic death and resorption, fetal death and mummification, abortion, stillbirth, and neonatal death. Severity of infection is associated with the stage of pregnancy at which the ewe becomes infected, the earlier in gestation, the more severe the consequences. Infected sheep meat is a source of T. gondii infection for humans and carnivorous animals. Most sheep acquire T. gondii infection after birth, and less than 4% of persistently infected sheep transmit the parasite vertically to the next generation. Recent studies by a group of researchers in England reported that repeat ovine transmission of T. gondii may be more common than previously believed but these findings are soley based on PCR data and require additional data using other techniques to verify the findings. Following infection with T. gondii, sheep develop humoral and cell-mediated immune responses against the parasite that provides effective protection against disease in subsequent pregnancies. A commercial vaccine is available, comprising a live, incomplete strain of T. gondii. The vaccine is administered to sheep prior to mating to protect against lamb losses due to toxoplasmosis. In the present paper, information on the prevalence, transmission, and control of ovine toxoplasmosis in the last 20 years is reviewed.

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