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Int J Parasitol. 2011 Jul;41(8):827-33. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2011.03.006. Epub 2011 Apr 7.

High prevalence and genotypes of Toxoplasma gondii isolated from goats, from a retail meat store, destined for human consumption in the USA.

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United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, Building 1001, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350, USA.


Little information is available concerning the presence of viable Toxoplasma gondii in tissues of goats worldwide. In the present study, hearts of 234 goats obtained from a local USA grocery store were examined for T. gondii infection. Blood clot or fluid removed from each heart was tested for antibodies to T. gondii by using the modified agglutination test (MAT). Antibodies to T. gondii were found in 125 (53.4%) of 234 goats, with titers of 1:5 in 20, 1:10 in 44, 1:20 in 16, 1:40 in five, 1:160 in five, 1:320 in five, and 1:640 or higher in 30 goats. Hearts of 112 goats (46 goats <1:5, and 66 goats 1:10 or higher) were used for isolation of viable T. gondii by bioassays in mice. For bioassays, 50 g of the myocardium were digested in an acid pepsin solution and the digest inoculated into mice; the recipient mice were examined for T. gondii infection. Toxoplasma gondii was isolated from 29 goats; from hearts of one of 46 with titers of <1:5, one of nine with titers of 1:10, one of three with titers of 1:40, and 26 of 40 with titers of 1:160 or higher. Two isolates were highly virulent to outbred Swiss Webster mice; all infected mice died of toxoplasmosis, irrespective of the dose. All T. gondii isolates were subsequently grown in cell cultures. Genotyping of the 29 T. gondii isolates using 10 PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism markers (SAG1, SAG2, SAG3, BTUB, GRA6, c22-8, c29-2, L358, PK1 and Apico) from DNA obtained from cell culture grown tachyzoites revealed 12 genotypes. Nine isolates were clonal Type II lineage, four isolates had type II alleles at all loci except a type I allele at the Apico locus, and four isolates were clonal Type III. The remaining 12 strains were divided into nine atypical genotypes, including five new and four previously identified genotypes. DNA sequences of four introns (EF1, HP2, UPRT1 and UPRT7) and two genes (GRA6 and GRA7) were generated for the five new genotypes. Comparing these sequences with previously published data revealed no unique sequences in these goat strains. Taken together, these results indicate high parasite prevalence and moderate genetic diversity of T. gondii in goats, which have important implications in public health. We believe this is the first genetic analysis of T. gondii isolates from goats in the USA.

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