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Keywords:

  • Toxoplasma gondii;
  • toxoplasmosis;
  • seroprevalence;
  • Nunavik;
  • Inuit;
  • health survey

Summary

As a result of their intimate contact with the land and their nutritional habits, the Inuit of Nunavik are considered to be at risk from zoonotic infections. To better understand the risk factors for Toxoplasma gondii infection, a serosurvey was conducted in Nunavik, Québec, in September 2004. A representative sample of the Inuit adult population of Nunavik participated in this cross-sectional study (n = 917). Antibodies (IgG) against T. gondii were detected by immunoassay. Information on sociodemographic characteristics, traditional activities, domestic environment and nutrition was gathered by questionnaire and explored as variables explanatory of seropositive results. Associations found to be statistically significant in univariate analyses were assessed by multivariable logistic regression to control for confounding factors. Almost two thirds (59.8%) of the Inuit of Nunavik were found to be seropositive for T. gondii. In multivariate analyses, risk factors for seropositivity were: increasing age, gender (women > men), lower level of education, consumption of potentially contaminated water (determined by an index of risk from waterborne infections), frequent cleaning of water reservoirs, and consumption of seal meat and feathered game. There was some variation in seroprevalence between the Ungava Bay coast (52.3%) and the Hudson Bay coast (65.6%), the two main regions of Nunavik, but this variation was not significant in the multivariable logistic regression model. This cross-sectional study demonstrated high T. gondii seroprevalence in the Inuit population and revealed that age, gender, schooling and community of residence all influence serostatus in this population. Variables related to drinking water and food choices may also influence the risk of infection. These results raise important questions about T. gondii transmission in Nunavik including possible links between terrestrial and marine cycles.