Abstract

Most strains of Toxoplasma gondii isolated in North America and Europe are grouped into 3 (Types I, II, III) genotypes and are considered clonal. Recent evidence suggests that illness due to toxoplasmosis in immunocompetent persons may be related to infection with an atypical genotype; these strains are mouse virulent. In the present study, a new mouse-virulent atypical T. gondii genotype was isolated from an asymptomatic black bear (Ursus americanus) from Alaska. The bear had a titer of 1∶1,600 using the modified agglutination test for T. gondii. Swiss Webster out-bred mice inoculated with bear heart homogenate died of acute toxoplasmosis, 12 days post-inoculation (PI). Cats fed tissues from chronically infected animals (day 30 PI) shed oocysts, but only 1 of 3 cats fed acutely infected mice (12, 16, 18 days PI) shed oocysts. The isolate (designated TgBbUS1) was mouse virulent; mice inoculated with 1 oocyst or 1 tachyzoite died of acute toxoplasmosis. The restricted fragment length polymorphism using 10 markers revealed that the strain possessed an atypical genotype: type I allele at loci SAG1, (5′-3′)SAG2, SAG3, c22-8, c29-2, L358, and Apico; type II allele at locus alt.SAG2; and type III allele at loci BTUB, GRA6, and PK1. DNA sequencing at intron loci EF1, HP2, and UPRT1 revealed that the TgBbUS1 is a divergent T. gondii strain. These results indicate that mouse-virulent atypical T. gondii genotypes are also circulating in wildlife in North America.

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