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Keywords:

  • Toxoplasma gondii;
  • swine;
  • oocyst transmission;
  • sporozoite-specific antigen

Summary

Pork has been traditionally considered an important source of human Toxoplasma gondii infection. Pigs, as other meat-producing animals, can become infected by the ingestion of oocysts that are shed in the environment by infected cats or by the consumption of cysts present in tissues of infected mammals, commonly small rodents. The objective of this study was to investigate the level of T. gondii infection in swine from southern Chile that can be associated with the ingestion of oocysts and therefore exposure to a contaminated environment. A total of 340 serum samples from swine were obtained from three commercial slaughterhouses located in the Araucania and Los Rios Regions from southern Chile. Study animals originated from local farms, mainly small commercial producers, and the meat is sold locally. Overall, 8.8% (30/340) of the samples showed Tgondii-specific IgG antibodies. Of these sero-positive animals, 80% (24/30) were also positive for antibodies specific against the oocyst stage of the parasite, indicating that animals had been infected recently by the ingestion of oocysts. The observed results suggest a high level of environmental contamination with oocysts on the farms of origin. In addition to the food safety problems associated with the consumption of meat from infected animals, the high level of environmental contamination on the farm represents a direct health risk for people living and/or working on these farms. Consequently, there is a need to develop on-farm monitoring programmes and identify risk reduction strategies (food storage, water purification, rodent control and contact with cats) that are appropriate and cost-effective for informal and outdoor type of farms.