Coastal habitat contamination with Toxoplasma gondii is a health risk to humans and marine wildlife, with infections documented in both nearshore and pelagic marine mammals. Due to lack of sensitive methods for detection of T.gondii in water, this study utilized an alternative surveillance approach for evaluating marine habitat contamination using wild mussels. The objectives of this study were to (i) validate sensitive molecular tools for T.gondii detection in mussels and (ii) apply optimized methods in a surveillance study to determine the prevalence and genotype(s) of T.gondii in mussels. Simplex polymerase chain reaction screening and multiplex genotyping assays were validated and then applied on 959 wild-caught mussels collected from central California. Thirteen mussels (1.4%) had detectable T.gondiiDNA and the presence of T.gondii in mussels was significantly associated with proximity to freshwater run-off and collection during the wet season. Molecular characterization revealed alleles from T.gondii types I, II/III, X at the B1 locus, and a novel atypical B1 allele that was recently documented in T.gondii-infected carnivores from California. Findings demonstrate higher than previously reported T.gondii contamination of California coastlines, and describe novel strains of the parasite that further link terrestrial sources with marine contamination.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics