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      Seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in horses and donkeys in Yunnan Province, Southwestern China

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          Toxoplasma gondii is an intracellular protozoan parasite that infects almost all warm-blooded animals, including humans, with a worldwide distribution. There have been limited reports about the seroprevalence of T. gondii infection in equids around the world and little is known about the seroprevalence of T. gondii in equids in southwestern China, in particular in Yunnan Province. The objective of the present investigation was to estimate the seroprevalence of T. gondii infection in equids in this area.


          A total of 399 serum samples (266 from horses and 133 from donkeys) were collected in 2012, and assayed for T. gondii antibodies by Indirect Haemagglutination (IHA) test using a commercially available kit.


          A total of 108 (27.1%) equids, including 81 (30.5%) horses and 27 (20.3%) donkeys were positive for T. gondii antibodies, and the seroprevalence ranged from 18.8% to 37.5% among different sampling areas. The seroprevalence was 27.4% and 26.8% for male and female equids, respectively, and the difference was not statistically significant ( P > 0.05). The seroprevalence ranged from 21% to 32.9% among different age groups, and the difference was not statistically significant ( P > 0.05).


          The results of the present survey indicated the existence of high T. gondii seroprevalence in Yunnan Province, southwestern China, which has significant public health concern. Therefore, it is imperative that improved integrated measures be carried out to prevent and control T. gondii infection in equids in the studied region.

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          Canine and feline parasitic zoonoses in China

          Canine and feline parasitic zoonoses have not been given high priority in China, although the role of companion animals as reservoirs for zoonotic parasitic diseases has been recognized worldwide. With an increasing number of dogs and cats under unregulated conditions in China, the canine and feline parasitic zoonoses are showing a trend towards being gradually uncontrolled. Currently, canine and feline parasitic zoonoses threaten human health, and cause death and serious diseases in China. This article comprehensively reviews the current status of major canine and feline parasitic zoonoses in mainland China, discusses the risks dogs and cats pose with regard to zoonotic transmission of canine and feline parasites, and proposes control strategies and measures.
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            Toxoplasmosis and Horse Meat, France

            To the Editor: Toxoplasma gondii parasites are obligate intracellular apicomplexans that can infect virtually all warm-blooded animals; felids are definitive hosts. The most common sources of human infection are ingestion of tissue cysts in undercooked meat or of food or water contaminated with oocysts shed by felids and transplacental transmission. Acquired toxoplasmosis in immunocompetent humans is frequently asymptomatic but is associated with cervical or occipital lymphadenopathy in ≈10% of patients. Severe or fatal outcomes for immunocompetent patients have been attributed to the virulence of specific T. gondii genotypes ( 1 ). We describe 3 cases of toxoplasmosis caused by atypical strains probably acquired by from ingestion of raw horse meat imported from Canada and Brazil. Patient 1, a 74-year-old man, was hospitalized locally (Antibes-Juan Les Pins, southern France) in March 2009 for asthenia and persistent febrile bronchitis. His medical history included severe smoking-related chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and coronary artery disease. He received broad-spectrum antimicrobial drugs and methylprednisolone. On day 23 after admission, he was transferred to our teaching hospital in Nice because of clinical deterioration and persistent fever. Disseminated toxoplasmosis was diagnosed on the basis of serologic evidence of recent primary T. gondii parasite infection and quantitative PCR detection of high Toxoplasma DNA levels in peripheral blood. Despite specific antitoxoplasma therapy with sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine, he remained febrile, his respiratory function worsened, and he died on day 27. Patient 2, a 24-year-old pregnant woman, was hospitalized in Draguignan, France, in December 2009 for full-term delivery. Three weeks earlier, routine serologic testing showed T. gondii parasite infection seroconversion. The newborn’s and mother’s ophthalmologic examinations were unremarkable. Congenital toxoplasmosis was diagnosed on the basis immunoglobulin M in the infant’s serum, positive quantitative PCR of samples from the placenta, and strain isolation after inoculation of mice with a placental preparation. Sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine were started. We performed a retrospective epidemiologic investigation of an unusual case of toxoplasmosis that occurred in March 1991. Patient 3, a 21-year-old pregnant woman living in the Nice area, was treated with spiramycine because routine serologic testing had shown T. gondii parasite infection seroconversion at 22 weeks’ gestation. Amniocentesis showed T. gondii tachyzoites in amniotic fluid by microscopic examination. At 26 weeks’ gestation, the woman underwent termination of pregnancy for ultrasonography-detected fetal severe abnormalities. Fetal necropsy showed numerous cerebral, cardiac, and hepatic abscesses with T. gondii tachyzoites. A few days after pregnancy termination, the woman experienced cervical lymphadenopathy, which lasted 3 years. She reported having eaten raw horse meat regularly during her pregnancy. Genetic analyses with microsatellite markers of the Toxoplasma spp. strains isolated from the 3 patients found 3 different atypical genotypes. Atypical strains are common in South America but unusual in France, where >95% of reported strains collected from human and animal toxoplasmosis cases belonged to the type II clonal lineage ( 2 , 3 ). Hence, isolation of an atypical Toxoplasma genotype from a patient in France strongly suggests contamination by a non-European strain, either during residence abroad or after ingestion of imported meat. Epidemiologic investigation of our case-patients that included questioning relatives, patients, and butchers found that eating raw horse meat imported from Canada (patient 1) or Brazil (patient 2) was the most likely source of the parasites. The geographic origin of the horse meat eaten by patient 3 is unknown. Moreover, an atypical T. gondii strain was isolated after mouse inoculation with horse meat from the first patient’s butcher. In all 3 cases, close relatives encouraged the patients to eat raw horse meat regularly because the practice is traditionally thought to reinforce health. Human toxoplasmosis cases associated with horse meat consumption are rarely reported but are probably underestimated ( 2 ). In the European Union, France and Italy account for more than two thirds of all horse meat eaten, predominantly raw, thereby increasing the likelihood of infection by various parasites, including Trichinella spp. and Toxoplasma spp ( 4 ). Under natural conditions, serologic prevalence of T. gondii parasites in horses worldwide may range from 0% to 80% ( 5 ). Many factors could account for this variation, including the sensitivity and specificity of the serologic test, ages of animals, geographic area and hygienic condition of farm management ( 5 ). The only prevalence survey of horses slaughtered for food that we are aware of was conducted in Canada and the United States and found antibodies to T. gondii parasites in 124 (6.9%) of 1,788 serum samples ( 6 ). T. gondii tissue cysts in meat are immediately killed by reaching an internal temperature of 67°C in all parts of meat during cooking ( 7 ). Deep freezing (<–12°C for at least 3 days) of meat before cooking is recommended because it reduces the risk for infection by inactivating most tissue cysts ( 7 ). These precautions are often not applied to horse meat because these imported carcasses are usually shipped as “fresh meat” and frequently eaten raw. Eating raw horse meat imported from non-European countries may expose consumers to high inocula of highly virulent atypical Toxoplasma spp. strains, which may cause life-threatening primary infection (case-patient 1) or severe congenital toxoplasmosis with atypical outcome of acquired toxoplasmosis in the mother (case-patient 3). Risk assessment for toxoplasmosis from horses slaughtered for food and imported into the European Union, as was recently done in France for ovine meat, is urgently needed ( 3 ).
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              Sensitivity and specificity of various serologic tests for detection of Toxoplasma gondii infection in naturally infected sows.

              The sensitivity and specificity of various serologic tests for antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii were compared in 1,000 naturally exposed sows, using isolation of viable T gondii as the definitive test. Serum samples obtained from heart blood of 1,000 sows from Iowa were examined for T gondii antibodies by use of the modified agglutination test (MAT), latex agglutination test (LAT), indirect hemagglutination test (IHAT), and ELISA. Toxoplasma gondii was isolated from 170 hearts of 1,000 sows by bioassays in mice and cats. The percentage of samples diagnosed as positive for each of the serologic tests was: MAT = 22.2% (titer > or = 1:20), IHAT = 6.4% (titer > or = 1:64), LAT = 10.4% (titer > or = 1:64), and ELISA = 24.1% (OD > 0.360). The sensitivity and specificity of these tests were calculated respectively to be: 82.9 and 90.29% for MAT, 29.4 and 98.3% for IHAT, 45.9 and 96.9% for LAT, and 72.9 and 85.9% for ELISA. The dye test was run at 1:20 dilution on only 893 sera because of bacterial contamination and presence of anticomplement substances. Dye test antibodies were found in 17.8% of the sera, and sensitivity and specificity were 54.4 and 90.8%, respectively. Thus, the MAT had the highest sensitivity among all serologic tests used.

                Author and article information

                Parasit Vectors
                Parasit Vectors
                Parasites & Vectors
                BioMed Central
                6 June 2013
                : 6
                : 168
                [1 ]College of Animal Science and Technology, Yunnan Agricultural University, Yunnan Province 650201, Kunming, PR China
                [2 ]Yunnan Academy of Scientific and Technical Information, Yunnan Province 650091, Kunming, PR China
                [3 ]School of Life Sciences, Yunnan University, Yunnan Province 650091, Kunming, PR China
                Copyright © 2013 Miao et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.




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