Seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in burrowing bettongs (Bettongia lesueur): a comparison of cat-free and cat-exposed populations

Philippa A. McKay*, Jasmin Hufschmid, Anna Meredith, Patsy A. Zendejas-Heredia, Katherine Moseby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous protozoan transmitted by felids and infection, morbidity, and mortality occur in numerous marsupial species. This study explores the relationship between cat exposure and Toxoplasma in burrowing bettongs (Bettongia lesueur) in the Arid Recovery Reserve (ARR), South Australia. We estimated seroprevalence, using a modified agglutination test for T. gondii-specific immunoglobulins, in cat-free and cat-exposed bettong populations. Tissue samples collected opportunistically from bettong carcasses and from cats within and around the reserve were screened for T. gondii DNA using multiplex real-time polymerase chain reaction (M-qPCR). Two cats trapped inside the ARR tested positive (50.0%; 95% CI: 15.0–85.0%). All bettongs tested from the cat-free (n = 48) and cat-exposed (n = 19) exclosures were seronegative (95% CI: 0–7.41% and 0–16.82% respectively). We found no evidence of fatal toxoplasmosis, with all bettong carcasses negative on M-qPCR (n = 11). We propose that T. gondii was not detected in bettongs coexisting with cats primarily due to low exposure of bettongs at the time of sampling, possibly due to poor oocyst viability in arid conditions or low shedding by cats. Ongoing screening throughout high and low rainfall years should be conducted to better establish the risk of Toxoplasma to bettongs in the ARR.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-183
JournalAustralian Journal of Zoology
Volume69
Issue number5
Early online date20 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

Keywords

  • Australian native marsupials
  • arid zone
  • feral cats
  • modified agglutination test
  • multiplex real-time PCR
  • parasite
  • reintroduction
  • toxoplasmosis

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