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Vet Parasitol. 2010 Aug 27;172(1-2):8-15. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2010.04.035. Epub 2010 May 6.

Detection and quantification of Toxoplasma gondii in ovine maternal and foetal tissues from experimentally infected pregnant ewes using real-time PCR.

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School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.


A real-time PCR (rt-PCR) targeting the 529-bp repeat element (RE) of Toxoplasma gondii was used to detect and quantify the parasite burden in maternal and foetal tissues in 18 seronegative ewes infected with 3000 toxoplasma oocysts on day 90 of pregnancy. The infected ewes were sacrificed in groups of 4-6 at 21, 25, 33 and 35 days post-challenge. Ten sham inoculated pregnant ewes were used as controls. T. gondii was not detected in the control ewes or their foeti. The parasite was only detected in the maternal tissues in a few of the challenged ewes on a small number of occasions where it was identified in spleen and uterine lymph nodes. T. gondii was detected in the foetal spleen and liver at the early sacrifice times but only sporadically thereafter. In the case of amniotic, allantoic and foetal aqueous humor samples T. gondii was only detected on a small number of occasions. However, it was found in the majority of the foetal lung and placentome samples throughout the study period, while placentomes and foetal brains contained high levels of the parasite during the later stages. Histopathological examination of placentome and brain tissue from the foeti in the present study revealed a strong correlation between histopathological lesions and quantities of the parasite DNA detected. These results indicate that the cotyledonary component of the foetal membranes is the sample of choice for the diagnosis of T. gondii by rt-PCR, followed by foetal lung and brain.

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