Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most common zoonotic parasites in the world. The parasite causes no or mild symptoms in immunocompetent humans. However, a high potential hazard exists for seronegative pregnant women and immunocompromised patients. The consumption of meat containing tissue cysts or oocyst-contaminated vegetables and fruits or the handling of cat feces poses a high risk of infection with T. gondii. It is known that raw minced meat, raw fresh sausages, and locally produced raw meat products are possible causes of T. gondii infection. The infectivity of T. gondii tissue cysts in meat products depends, among other factors, on the pH and the salt concentration. Therefore, the impact of these two factors on the tissue cysts was examined. For this purpose, dissected musculature and brain from experimentally infected mice (donor mice) were placed in a cell culture medium (RPMI 1640). The medium was adjusted to different pH values (pH 5, 6, and 7) with lactic acid and to different salt concentrations (2.0, 2.5, and 3.0%) with sodium chloride (NaCl) or nitrite-enriched curing salt (NCS) for the various tests. After storage at 4°C for different time periods, the materials were fed to bioassay mice. Later, the brains were examined for presence of T. gondii to assess the infectivity. The data show that T. gondii tissue cysts have a high pH tolerance. Cysts were infectious in the muscle for up to 26 days (pH 5). In contrast to their tolerance to pH, cysts were very sensitive to salt. Muscle cysts survived at an NaCl concentration of up to 2.0%only, and for no longer than 8 days. At NaCl concentrations of 2.5 and 3.0%, the cysts lost their infectivity after 1 day. When NCS instead of NaCl was used under the same conditions, T. gondii muscle cysts retained infectivity for only 4 days at 2.0%. Consequently, NCS (NaCl plus 0.5% nitrite) has a stronger effect on T. gondii cysts than does common table salt. Sausages produced with low NaCl concentration and short contact times pose a potential risk for susceptible individuals.

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