Abstract

The ingestion of uncooked infected white-tailed deer (WTD) tissues can transmit Toxoplasma gondii infection to humans and mesocarnivores, including cats. In the present study, we tested 264 WTD from New Jersey for T. gondii infection during the 2011–2012 hunting season. Serum samples were tested for antibodies to T. gondii by the modified agglutination test (cutoff titer, 25); 76 (28.7%) of 264 WTD were seropositive. Heart muscle samples from 64 seropositive WTD were digested in pepsin, and the digests were bioassayed for the isolation of T. gondii. Viable T. gondii was isolated in mice from the myocardium of 9 WTD; tachyzoites from infected mouse tissues were further propagated in cell culture. One of the 9 strains was highly virulent for outbred Swiss Webster mice. The DNA isolated from culture-derived tachyzoites of these 9 T. gondii isolates was characterized using 11 PCR-RFLP markers (SAG1, 5′- and 3′-SAG2, alt.SAG2, SAG3, BTUB, GRA6, c22-8, c29-2, L358, PK1, and Apico). Six genotypes were found, including ToxoDB genotype no. 2 (Type III), no. 3 (Type II variant), no. 4 (Type 12), no. 216, no. 220, and no. 221. The last 2 were new genotypes that were reported for the first time. This is the first report of T. gondii infection in deer from this region of the United States.

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