Seropositivity of Toxoplasma gondii in domestic donkeys (Equus asinus) and isolation of T. gondii from farm cats.Vet Parasitol. 2014 Jan 17; 199(1-2):18-23.VP
Donkeys (Equus asinus) are used as both companion and working animals throughout the world and in some countries, their meat and milk are used for human consumption. Here we report the first serological survey of Toxoplasma gondii in donkeys in the United States. Serum samples from 373 donkeys from eight farms in five states were tested for T. gondii antibodies by the modified agglutination test (MAT). Twenty-four of 373 (6.4%) of donkeys were seropositive, with MAT titers ranging from 25 to ≥ 200. All seropositive donkeys were Miniature breed. Seropositivity prevalence was 7.0% in female donkeys (20/282) and 4.1% in male donkeys (4/91). No donkeys less than 24 months of age (129) were seropositive, suggesting postnatal transmission of infection. Domestic cats were present on six of the eight farms. Three cats from one farm had MAT titers of 200. Viable T. gondii was isolated from the hearts of two cats, but not from brain tissues. Genotyping of isolate DNA extracted from culture-derived tachyzoites using 10 PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) markers (SAG1, SAG2, SAG3, BTUB, GRA6, c22-8, c29-2, PK1, L358 and Apico loci) revealed that both isolates were clonal Type II (ToxoDB PCR-RFLP genotype #1). This is the first serological survey for T. gondii in donkeys in the United States, and suggests that donkey milk and meat should be considered as a potential source for human infection. The role of barn cats in the transmission of T. gondii to donkeys on farms warrents further investigation.