Abstract

A major public health issue, Toxoplasma gondii infection can affect humans mainly via the consumption of animal products from certain species, including small ruminants. Therefore, a regular monitoring of the infection in ovine and caprine populations is advisable for the control of human and animal toxoplasmosis. Antibody detection in individual and bulk tank milk (BTM) may represent a valid alternative to serological analysis, in that its collection is easy and does not affect animal welfare. Many serological tools for milk analysis have already been validated for several parasites, including Apicomplexa. Thus, the aim of the present study was to obtain epidemiological data on T. gondii infection through the detection of antibodies in BTM of dairy goat herds from an important area for caprine dairy production (northern Italy). The performance of a commercial ELISA was first evaluated for analysis of caprine milk samples, using a panel of serum–milk pairs of goats naturally infected by T. gondii. The analysis of BTM confirmed the presence of anti-T. gondii antibodies in 59% of the samples. Toxoplasma gondii antibody positivity was more frequently found in goats reared on farms under extensive (64.9%) or semi-intensive systems (68.7%) in comparison with intensive farms (51.1%). Analysis of milk was a valid alternative to serological tests, being easily applied in large-scale epidemiological surveys and for continuous monitoring of T. gondii infection.

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