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Toxoplasma gondii: a threat to Australian wildlife?

Pan, S., Thompson, A., Smith, A., Grigg, M. and Lymbery, A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0542-3446 (2010) Toxoplasma gondii: a threat to Australian wildlife? In: Ecological Society of Australia 2010 Annual Conference Sustaining biodiversity – the next 50 years (book of abstracts), 4 - 10 December, Canberra, ACT, Australia.


Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous protozoan parasite of vertebrates. Infection can lead to a wide spectrum of disease states, ranging from altered behaviour to severe, often fatal illness. Virulence depends, in part, upon the genetotype of the parasite. Although T. gondii has been identified in Australian marsupials, there have been few studies of the prevalence of the parasite or its genetic characteristics in natural populations. We obtained tissue samples from five different organs of 16 adult kangaroos from arid rangeland in Western Australia. Samples were screened for T. gondii by DNA extraction and direct sequencing. There were three very surprising results. First, all 16 kangaroos were infected, which indicates either heavy environmental contamination or substantial verical transmission of the parasite. Second, multiple infections with different genotypes of T. gondii were found in all of the kangaroos, which suggests that sexual reproduction occurs regularly in the life cycle of the parasite in Australia. Finally, 88% of the genotypes of T. gondii that were detected were different to the three common strains found in domestic transmission cycles in other parts of the world, which suggests that T. gondii in Australian wildlife may exhibit a wide range of virulence states.

Item Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
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