Toxoplasmosis has been recognized as a major public health problem worldwide. The consumption of uncooked or undercooked meat infected with Toxoplasma gondii tissue cysts is one of the main means of transmission of this parasite. Although sheep, goats, and pigs are commonly infected with T. gondii, little information is available on the distribution of T. gondii tissue cysts in naturally infected meat. In this study, we investigated the distribution of viable T. gondii tissue cysts in shoulder muscles of naturally infected lambs and goats. Hearts and shoulders of 46 lambs and 39 goats from a local grocery store were tested for T. gondii infection. Animals were evaluated for the presence of anti–T. gondii antibodies in heart blood and clots by the modified agglutination test. Fourteen of the 85 animals (seven lambs and seven goats) were seropositive. Six to 12 samples weighing 5, 10, and 50 g were obtained from shoulder muscles of each seropositive animal and used for bioassay in mice. The distribution of viable T. gondii differed according to the size of the sample analyzed, but in general larger sample sizes resulted in higher isolation rates (P < 0.05). Results of the study revealed an uneven distribution of T. gondii in muscle samples of lambs and goats and that T. gondii can be transmitted by consumption of very small servings (5 and 10 g) of meat when it is consumed raw or is undercooked.
T. gondii tissue cysts were detected in muscles of naturally infected lambs and goats.
Tissue cysts were unevenly distributed in meat from seropositive animals.
Small portions of uncooked lamb and goat can pose a risk of toxoplasmosis in humans.