Laboratory-reared animals were used to assess the susceptibility of seals (Halichoerus grypus) to Toxoplasma gondii infection. Four seals were each orally inoculated with 100 or 10,000 oocysts of T. gondii (VEG strain), and another 4 seals served as negative controls. Occasionally, mild behavioral changes were observed in all inoculated seals but not in control animals. A modified agglutination test revealed the presence of antibodies to T. gondii in sera collected from inoculated seals and mice inoculated as controls. No evidence of the parasite was found on an extensive histological examination of seal tissues, and immunohistochemical staining of tissue sections from inoculated seals revealed a single tissue cyst in only 1 seal. Control mice inoculated with 10 oocysts from the same inoculum given to seals became serologically and histologically positive for T. gondii. Cats that were fed brain or muscle tissue collected from inoculated seals passed T. gondii oocysts in feces. This study demonstrates that T. gondii oocysts can establish viable infection in seals and supports the hypothesis that toxoplasmosis in marine mammals can be acquired from oocysts in surface water runoff and sewer discharge.

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