Abstract

Toxoplasma gondii infection in marine mammals is intriguing and indicative of contamination of the ocean environment and coastal waters with oocysts. Toxoplasma gondii infection was detected in captive marine mammals at a sea aquarium in Canada. Antibodies to T. gondii were found in all 7 bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) tested. Two of these dolphins, as well as a walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) at the facility, died. Encephalitis and T. gondii tissue cysts were identified in histological sections of the brain of 1 dolphin (dolphin no. 1). Another dolphin (dolphin no. 2) had mild focal encephalitis without visible organisms, but viable T. gondii was isolated by bioassay in mice and cats from its brain and skeletal muscle; this strain was designated TgDoCA1. The PCR-RFLP typing using 11 markers (B1, SAG1, SAG2, SAG3, BTUB, GRA6, c22-8, c29-2, L358, PK1, and Apico) identified a Type II strain. The DNA sequencing of B1 and SAG1 alleles amplified from TgDoCA1 and directly from the brains of dolphin no. 1 and the walrus showed archetypal alleles consistent with infection by a Type II strain. No unique polymorphisms were detected. This is apparently the first report of isolation of T. gondii from a marine mammal in Canada.

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