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Vet Parasitol. 2006 Jan 30;135(2):121-31. Epub 2005 Sep 26.

Cross-sectional survey on Toxoplasma gondii infection in cattle, sheep and pigs in Serbia: seroprevalence and risk factors.

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Laboratory for Medical Parasitology, Institute for Medical Research, Dr. Subotića 4, P.O. Box 102, 11129 Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro.


Toxoplasmosis is a globally distributed zoonosis with a clinical impact in the unborn fetus and in the immunosuppressed individual. In Serbia, studies of risk factors for Toxoplasma gondii infection in humans have shown that the relatively high prevalence is associated mainly with consumption of undercooked meat and/or meat products. However, data on T. gondii infection in domestic animals mostly used for human consumption are scarce. We thus conducted a cross-sectional survey on the seroprevalence of T. gondii infection in a representative sample of cattle, sheep and pigs from different regions of Serbia between June 2002 and June 2003, and analyzed the main risk factors associated with the infection. Sera from 611 cattle (yearlings and adults of both sexes), 511 ewes, and 605 pigs (market-weight and sows), were examined for T. gondii antibodies by the modified agglutination test. The seroprevalences determined were 76.3% in cattle, 84.5% in sheep and 28.9% in pigs. The antibody levels ranged from 1:25 to 1:400 in cattle, and up to 1:25,600 in sheep and to 1:12,800 in pigs. Among the seropositive, the proportion of high antibody levels (> or =1:1600), suggestive of acute infection, was 10% in sheep, and 4% in pigs. Possible association of the infection with biologically plausible risk factors including gender, age, herd size/farm type, type of housing, feeding practices and region, was analyzed by univariate analysis, and variables significant at P< or =0.1 were included in multivariate logistic regression models. The results showed that risk factors for cattle were small herd size (odds ratio, OR=2.19, 95% confidence interval, CI=1.28-3.75, P=0.004) and farm location in Western Serbia (OR=2.04, 95% CI=1.10-3.79, P=0.024), while housing in stables with access to outside pens was protective (OR=0.37, 95% CI=0.21-0.67, P=0.001). In sheep, an increased risk of infection was found in ewes from state-owned flocks (OR=4.18, 95% CI=2.18-8.00, P<0.001) vs. private flocks, and, interestingly, also in those from Western Serbia (OR=4.66, 95% CI=1.18-18.32, P=0.028). In pigs, the risk of infection was highly increased in adult animals (OR=3.87, 95% CI=2.6-5.76, P<0.001), as well as in those from finishing type farms (OR=3.96, 95% CI=1.97-7.94, P<0.001). In addition to providing data on the current T. gondii seroprevalence in meat animals in Serbia, the results of this study show the main risk factors associated with infection, thereby pointing to the type of preventive measures to reduce T. gondii infection.

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