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Prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii antibodies in pinnipeds from Antarctica
  1. S-K. Jensen2,
  2. I. H. Nymo1,
  3. J. Forcada3,
  4. J. Godfroid1 and
  5. A. Hall2
  1. 1Section of Arctic Veterinary Medicine, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, Tromsø N-9010, Norway
  2. 2Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews KY16 8LB, UK
  3. 3British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK
  1. E-mail for correspondence: skj3{at}st-andrews.ac.uk

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Toxoplasma GONDII is an intracellular protozoan parasite with a worldwide distribution. T gondii has a complex life cycle, and members of the family, Felidae (domestic cats and their relatives), are the only definitive host. Oocysts are shed in the faeces of felids, and there are two routes of becoming infected: (1) ingestion of T gondii oocysts from contaminated food or water or (2) consumption of infected tissue (Dubey and others 2003, Dubey and Jones 2008). Oocysts from T gondii are known to survive and remain viable in seawater at 4°C (Lindsay and others 2003), and survive harsh environmental conditions, including freezing temperatures (Frenkel and Dubey 1973, Buxton and others 2007). Mortality and morbidity are potential outcomes of T gondii infection in marine mammals (Dubey and others 2003, 2007, Fayer and others 2004,). Studies have documented the presence of antibodies against T gondii in wild and captive marine mammals from Asia, Europe and America (Dubey and others 2003, 2005, 2009 Dubey 2010).

Antibodies against T gondii have been detected in pinnipeds from the arctic ecosystem, including hooded (Cystophora cristata), ringed (Pusa hispida), bearded (Erignathus barbatus), harbour (Phoca vitulina), grey (Halichoerus grypus) and spotted (Phoca largha) seals, as well as walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) (Dubey and others 2003, Gajadhar and others 2004, Measures and others 2004, Prestrud and others 2007, Jensen and others 2010). Migratory birds, in which tissue cyst and asexual reproduction …

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