Toxoplasma gondii in wild ruminants bred in game preserves and farms with production destined for human consumption in the Czech Republic.
Keywords:zoonosis, food safety, meat, tissue cyst, antibodies
Toxoplasma gondii is the causative agent of the most common parasitic infection in humans. Almost all warm-blooded animals, as well as humans, can act as intermediate hosts that harbour infective cysts in their tissues. Felids act as definitive hosts excreting oocysts in faeces. In humans, T. gondii can cause subclinical infection but also severe clinical disease with a wide range of symptoms, especially in immunocompromised individuals. The infection is usually asymptomatic in animals and is not recognized at either ante- or post-mortem inspection. The consumption of undercooked meat from infected animals is one of the most important routes by which the infection can be transmitted to humans. Handling of the organs and other tissues of game animals and eating their undercooked meat have been described as a risk of T. gondii infection. For diagnosis of toxoplasmosis, the combination of serological and molecular methods has been described as a suitable approach. Antibodies against T. gondii were detected in 20.8%, 50.0%, 23.1%, and 24.4% of red deer, sika deer, fallow deer and mouflons, respectively, coming from game preserves and farms in the Czech Republic. T. gondii DNA was found in the muscle tissue of red deer (8.3%) and mouflons (14.6%). The lower prevalence rates based on molecular screening could be due to the random distribution and low density of cysts in tissues of infected animals. Bearing in mind the increase in the number of hunted animals and the growing trend in game consumption, it is important to educate hunters and game meat consumers about the risk of exposure to this zoonotic infection during handling and consumption of the meat.
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