Parasites & vectors

Toxoplasma gondii in livestock in St. Kitts and Nevis, West Indies.

PMID 25889004


Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous protozoan parasite capable of infecting all warm-blooded animals including livestock. In these animals, the parasite forms cysts in the tissues which may pose a risk to public health if infected meat is consumed undercooked or raw. The aim of this study was to determine the exposure of livestock to T. gondii in St. Kitts and Nevis. Sera and/or heart tissue and meat juice were collected from pigs (n = 124), sheep (n = 116) and goats (n = 66) at the St. Kitts Abattoir. Sera and meat juice were screened for reactive antibodies to T. gondii using an in-house ELISA. Heart tissue was screened for T. gondii DNA using quantitative PCR and positive samples were genotyped using RFLP. Antibodies to T. gondii were detected in sera from 48% of pigs, 26% of sheep and 34% of goats tested. Antibodies were also detected in the meat juice from 55% of pig hearts, 22% of sheep hearts and 31% of goat hearts tested. There was a significant positive correlation between serology and meat juice results. T. gondii DNA was detected in heart tissue of 21% of pigs, 16% of sheep and 23% of goats tested. Preliminary PCR-RFLP analysis identified a predominance of the Type III genotype of T. gondii. These results suggest widespread environmental contamination with T. gondii oocysts and that livestock could be a potentially important source of T. gondii infection if their infected meat is consumed (or handled) undercooked.