ABSTRACT

Toxoplasma gondii is a prevalent protozoan parasite worldwide. Human toxoplasmosis is responsible for considerable morbidity and mortality in the United States, and meat products have been identified as an important source of T. gondii infections in humans. The goal of this study was to develop a farm-to-table quantitative microbial risk assessment model to predict the public health burden in the United States associated with consumption of U.S. domestically produced lamb. T. gondii prevalence in market lambs was pooled from the 2011 National Animal Health Monitoring System survey, and the concentration of the infectious life stage (bradyzoites) was calculated in the developed model. A log-linear regression and an exponential dose-response model were used to model the reduction of T. gondii during home cooking and to predict the probability of infection, respectively. The mean probability of infection per serving of lamb was estimated to be 1.5 cases per 100,000 servings, corresponding to ~6,300 new infections per year in the U.S. population. Based on the sensitivity analysis, we identified cooking as the most effective method to influence human health risk. This study provided a quantitative microbial risk assessment framework for T. gondii infection through consumption of lamb and quantified the infection risk and public health burden associated with lamb consumption.

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