Toxo in Canadian deer hunters eating undercooked venison from Illinois

We conducted a recent investigation in Quebec, Canada, concerning Canadian deer hunters who went to the United States to hunt deer and returned with symptoms of fever, severe headache, myalgia, and articular pain of undetermined etiology. Further investigation identified that a group of 10 hunters from Quebec attended a hunting retreat in Illinois (USA) during November 22–December 4, 2018.

Six of the 10 hunters had similar symptoms and illness onset dates. Serologic tests indicated a recent toxoplasmosis infection for all symptomatic hunters, and the risk factor identified was consumption of undercooked deer meat. Among asymptomatic hunters, 2 were already immune to toxoplasmosis, 1 was not immune, and the immune status of 1 remains unknown. Outbreaks of acute toxoplasmosis infection are rare in North America, but physicians should be aware that such outbreaks could become more common.

Acute toxoplasmosis among Canadian deer hunters associated with consumption of undercooked deer meat hunted in the U.S.

Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 26, no. 2

Colette Gaulin , Danielle Ramsay, Karine Thivierge, Joanne Tataryn, Ariane Courville, Catherine Martin, Patricia Cunningham, Joane Désilets, Diane Morin, and Réjean Dion

1786 sick from toxo in Brazil: water suspected

Brazilian media report (via ProMed, thanks) that in the past 15 days, the number of cases of confirmed toxoplasmosis has increased from 594 to 621, according to a new epidemic bulletin from the government of Rio Grande do Sul and the city council on the epidemic facing the region.

Of the more than 600 confirmed cases, 54 are pregnant women, with 3 fetal deaths and 3 abortions.

The number of suspected cases increased from 1291 on [29 Jun 2018] to 1486 on Friday. Of these, 350 were rejected and 515 arestill under investigation. The total number of cases related to the disease is 1786, according to the latest newsletter.

The causes of the epidemic, confirmed by the State Secretariat of SAR in April this year [2018], are still unknown, and the authorities continue to investigate the event, under the supervision of the federal prosecution. Last Friday [6 Jul 2018], an examination detected the presence of the protozoan responsible for the disease in the water tank of a town residence. But the relationship between the protozoan and the epidemic has not been confirmed.

Toxoplasmosis, popularly known as cat disease, is an infectious disease caused by a protozoan called Toxoplasma gondii. This protozoan is easily found in nature and can cause infection in many mammals and birds around the world.

According to the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases, the disease can occur through the ingestion of oocysts (where the parasite grows) from soil, sand, and bins contaminated with feces from infected cats; ingestion of raw and undercooked meat infected with oocysts, especially pork and mutton; or by transplacental infection, occurring in 40% of fetuses of mothers who contracted infection during pregnancy. The incubation period of toxoplasmosis ranges from 10 to 23 days when the cause is meat consumption, and from 5 to 20 days when the reason is contact with cat feces oocysts.

The Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases suggests some preventive measures. Do not eat raw or malnourished meats, and eat only well-washed vegetables and fruits cleaned with running water. Avoid contact with cat feces. In addition to avoiding contact with cats, pregnant women must undergo appropriate medical (prenatal) monitoring.

Toxo: You don’t want it

Toxoplasmosis is a foodborne zoonosis transmitted by Toxoplasma gondii, a cosmopolitan protozoan that infects humans through exposure to different parasite stages, in particular by ingestion of tissue cysts or tachyzoites contained in meat, primary offal (viscera), and meat-derived products or ingestion of environmental sporulated oocysts in contaminated food or water.

The pig is an important species for infection: raw or undercooked pork consumption not subject to treatment able to inactivate the parasite represents a risk to consumers’ health. Broadening knowledge of transmission ways and prevalence concerning this important pathogen in swine, together with a thorough acquaintance with hazard management are key elements to avoid T. gondii spreading within the swine production chain.

This review aims to illustrate why toxoplasmosis should be regarded as a veterinary public health issue through a careful description of the parasite, routes of infection, and inactivation treatments, highlighting the main prevention lines from pig breeding to pork consumption.

Toxoplasma gongii, a foodborne pathogen in the swine production chain form a European perspective

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, ahead of print, July 2017,  De Berardinis Alberto, Paludi Domenico, Pennisi Luca, and Vergara Alberto,

Toxo in cat poop threatens Hawaiian monk seals

Two wildlife issues have collided in Hawaii, pitting one group of animal defenders against another in an impassioned debate. The point of contention? Deadly cat poop and the feral felines that produce it.

hawaiian-monk-sealsFederal researchers believe feces from the legions of stray cats roaming Hawaii is spreading a disease that is killing Hawaiian monk seals, some of the world’s most endangered marine mammals. Some conservationists advocate euthanizing those cats that no one wants, and that has cat lovers up in arms.

“It’s a very difficult, emotional issue,” said state Sen. Mike Gabbard, chairman of a committee that earlier this year heard a proposal to ban the feeding of feral cats on state land. The panel abandoned the bill after an outcry.

“It struck a nerve in our community,” he said.

The problem stems from a parasite common in cats that can cause toxoplasmosis, a disease that has killed at least five female Hawaiian monk seals and three males since 2001, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“While eight seals may not sound like a lot of animals, it actually has pretty large ramifications for an endangered population where there’s only about 1,300 seals in existence at this point in time,” said Michelle Barbieri, veterinary medical officer for NOAA’s Hawaiian monk seal research program. Scientists believe monk seals become exposed by ingesting contaminated water or prey.

Stray cats, meanwhile, have no predators in Hawaii and have ballooned in numbers across the state. Some 300,000 feral cats roam Oahu alone, according to marketing research commissioned by the Hawaiian Humane Society in 2015.

And monkeys may fly out my butt: Cat poop to cure cancer

A parasite found in cat poop could cure ovarian cancer.

A new study carried out in America has found Toxoplasma gondii, the organism that lives in the animal faeces, could be the answer to banishing the potentially fatal illness.

US scientists believe a protein carried by a parasite that infests felines appears to make tumours shrink.

Tests already carried out show the chemical works against ovarian cancer but scientists believe it could also hold the key to the cure for breast, kidney, liver and lung tumours, according to


Cats: Harbinger of parasites and schizophrenia

Pregnant women are advised to avoid many things, including alcohol, smoking and even their cat’s litter box (what about the refrigerated ready-to-eat foods?). More than 90% of obstetricians and gynecologists in the United States caution patients about handling cat litter during pregnancy, according to a recent survey.

amy.pregnant.catThe reason? A parasite lurking in the pets’ poop.

Cats can shed a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii in their feces, and if a pregnant woman accidentally inhales or eats the parasite and becomes infected, there are serious health risks. In 20% to 50% of cases (PDF), the fetus also becomes infected.

Only a very small number of cats are estimated to be shedding these parasites at any time — about 1%, by some estimates — but if a woman is infected within her first trimester, it could lead to microcephaly and other birth defects, as well as an increased risk of mental disability and blindness later in the child’s life.

People with weakened immune systems, such as those who have HIV or are undergoing chemotherapy, can develop neurological problems including headaches and seizures from the infection.

jauques.fierce.jun.16Other than the groups who were at greater risk, experts had generally thought toxoplasma, or toxo, was of little consequence. But that view started to change in the past decade as reports claimed that the parasite could influence a person’s behavior and even increase the risk of schizophrenia.

Once a person is infected, toxo lies dormant in their body throughout their life. A recent study found between 10% and 15% of people in the United States to be latently infected with the parasite.

“The consequences of infection with toxo not during pregnancy is all new and not well understood,” said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a research psychiatrist at the Stanley Medical Research Institute, a nonprofit organization that supports research on schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

There have been so many new studies into the link between toxo infection and schizophrenia that Torrey created a web page to keep track of them all. “I’m adding studies almost every month,” he said.

In a 2007 review, Torrey found that people with schizophrenia were 2.7 times more likely to have antibodies against the parasite — which indicate that someone has been infected — than healthy people. This increase in risk would mean that the rate of schizophrenia would increase from 1 in 100 in the general adult population in the United States to 2.7 in 100 among people who have a toxo infection.

A large study by Torrey and his colleagues found that adults who had schizophrenia were more likely to have grown up in homes that had cats, compared with healthy controls. Parents of young children may therefore want to be careful about bringing a new cat into the home.

Despite the evidence found to date, it is still not possible to say whether toxo infections cause these illnesses, said William Sullivan, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, microbiology and immunology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Research has merely suggested that people with psychiatric disorders happen to be more likely to have been exposed to toxo. “Correlation plus correlation plus correlation does not equal causation,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan suspects that toxo is not enough on its own to bring on the illness and that another, as yet unknown, risk factor could also be involved.

A good way to find out whether toxo truly causes mental health disorders and changes in behavior would be to give people with schizophrenia a drug that clears their dormant toxo infection and see whether their symptoms improve, Sullivan said. But no such drug exists.

According to Sullivan, there are other ways to become infected with toxo, including eating raw meat, which can harbor the parasite, and gardening or working with soil, where toxo can survive for several years.

A study by Torrey found that there can be 100 toxo spores, or oocysts, under a gardener’s fingernail. Those with a green thumb can take protective steps, such as wearing gloves and a face mask.

People can also become infected by eating the raw meat of animals harboring the parasite. To prevent this, Sullivan advises that people make sure to cook meat thoroughly or else to freeze the meat before eating it.


Farmers targeting toxo-carrying feral cats in NZ

An Ontario friend arranged for three kittens for me and my daughters about 12 years ago from their local shelter. was a dairy farmer and used to horrify the kids with how he shot stray kitties.

People would randomly abandon cats on his dairy farm, believing cartoons about cats and milk.

He wasn’t going to lose his livelihood to some unwanted cat.

Farmers in New Zealand are doing the same thing.

Feral cats carrying toxoplasmosis are the target of a predator programme that could save Hawke’s Bay farmers in excess of $4.5 million dollars a year.

A monitoring programme testing ewes on six farms, as part of the Cape to City predator programme, has found that up to 30 per cent of sheep carry the disease, which causes a high abortion rate in pregnant ewes.

Three “experimental” farms within the 26,000-hectare Cape to City footprint tested feral cats and mice for toxoplasmosis while three control farms outside of the footprint tested mice only.

Sixty sheep on each farm have also been sample tested to form a baseline across the farms that have been matched in size, stocking density and habitat.

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Biosecurity adviser Rod Dickson said the baseline was high but “that was expected” and by reducing feral cats, it is hoped abortion rates will decrease.

braunwynn.kittens.03“Feral cats are one of the main carriers of toxoplasmosis and if we can reduce the numbers of feral cats, we have a good chance of reducing the high abortion rate in ewes.

“This could provide a significant economic benefit for farmers,” he said.

Mr Dickson said toxoplasma is highly prevalent in New Zealand sheep flocks with a recent survey testing 198 ewe flocks revealed 85 per cent of sheep had been exposed to the disease.

Sheep become infected from eating contaminated food such as pasture, concentrate feeds and hay.

Once ingested, the disease spreads to the sheep’s muscles and brain ” and also to the placenta. Shielded from the ewe’s defence system the parasite multiplies rapidly, killing cells as infection spreads.

And my cats? Lucky wasn’t so lucky and didn’t make it out of Guelph. The two black ones had a long life roaming the forest in our Kansas backyard and, brought us gifts every morning.

Toxoplasmosis, now found in Giant Panda

The Open Access journal Parasite just published the results on toxoplasmosis in Giant Panda.

giantpandapr3.003In February 2014, China’s Zhengzhou Zoo suffered the loss of a 7-year-old female panda named Jin Yi. The Giant Panda was infected with toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii, which infects virtually all warm-blooded animals (mammals and birds), including humans.

Hongyu Ma, Zedong Wang, Chengdong Wang, Caiwu Li, Feng Wei, and Quan Liu, six researchers from the Jilin Agricultural University in Changchun, the Military Veterinary Institute in Changchun and the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, Ya’an, China, have now published their analysis, based on immunological and molecular methods. They confirmed that Jin Yi died from acute gastroenteritis and respiratory symptoms caused by toxoplasmosis.

Jean-Lou Justine, Editor-in-Chief of Parasite says, “This first report of toxoplasmosis in the Giant Panda is a major finding as it is an additional example of the ubiquity of Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite famous for reports of its effects on the behavior of infected mice. To our knowledge, this is the first report of clinical toxoplasmosis in a Giant Panda.”

This paper published in Parasite is available in English with English, French and Chinese abstracts and free to read. Please follow this link,

Modeling toxo in meat

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that is responsible for approximately 24% of deaths attributed to foodborne pathogens in the United States.

doug.cats.jun.14It is thought that a substantial portion of human T. gondii infections is acquired through the consumption of meats. The dose-response relationship for human exposures to T. gondii-infected meat is unknown because no human data are available. The goal of this study was to develop and validate dose-response models based on animal studies, and to compute scaling factors so that animal-derived models can predict T. gondii infection in humans. Relevant studies in literature were collected and appropriate studies were selected based on animal species, stage, genotype of T. gondii, and route of infection. Data were pooled and fitted to four sigmoidal-shaped mathematical models, and model parameters were estimated using maximum likelihood estimation. Data from a mouse study were selected to develop the dose-response relationship.Exponential and beta-Poisson models, which predicted similar responses, were selected as reasonable dose-response models based on their simplicity, biological plausibility, and goodness fit. A confidence interval of the parameter was determined by constructing 10,000 bootstrap samples. Scaling factors were computed by matching the predicted infection cases with the epidemiological data. Mouse-derived models were validated against data for the dose-infection relationship in rats. A human dose-response model was developed as P (d) = 1–exp (–0.0015 × 0.005 × d) or P (d) = 1–(1 + d × 0.003 / 582.414)−1.479. Both models predict the human response after consuming T. gondii-infected meats, and provide an enhanced risk characterization in a quantitative microbial risk assessment model for this pathogen.

 Development of Dose-Response Models to Predict the Relationship for Human Toxoplasma gondii Infection Associated with Meat Consumption

Risk Analysis, 19 October 2015

M Guo, A Mishra, R Buchanan, J Dubey, D Hill, H Gamble, J Jones, X Du, and A Pradhan


Unborn babies can get toxoplasmosis, listeriosis

ABS-CBN News in the Philippines reports Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in raw or undercooked meat, can latch on to pregnant moms and their unborn babies if ingested, potentially causing food poisoning, miscarriage or other complications to the unborn baby.

pregnant.fishAccording to microbiologist Dr. Windell Rivera, “Usually infected newborns would have problems sa mata, sa utak, mga damage talaga at birth (Usually, infected newborns would have eye or brain damages at birth).”

Toxoplasmosis is the disease caused by the Toxoplasma gondii parasite. Naturally thriving in a cat’s stomach, it can contaminate soil, water, or plant material once released via the animal’s feces. Animals that ingest the parasite can be infected. Humans may contract the parasite by consuming contaminated meat products.

According to the World Health Organization, toxoplasmosis is one of the five most commonly “neglected parasitic infections” as the parasite shows no symptoms in people with strong immunity. However, immunodeficient individuals may experience body aches, swollen lymph nodes, head ache, fever, or fatigue. Babies of pregnant mothers are usually the most potent victims as congenital toxoplasmosis can result to fetal death.

Experts, however, said that mothers who contracted the parasite before pregnancy could be safer as their bodies may have already developed immunity.

Treatment of the toxoplasmosis, in general, is also possible through medication, according to experts; however, completely removing all the parasites from the body may not be possible.

Beyond the Toxoplasma gondii, experts add that mother must also look out for the Listeria bacteria.

amy_pregnantRivera warned, “Ang listeria delikado. Twenty times at risk ang mga buntis. Pwedeng malaglag yung bata kung ma-food poison yung nanay. O kaya sakitin yung bata paglabas (Listeria is 20 times more harmful to pregnant mothers. Mothers may experience miscarriage if they contract food poisoning. If not, the baby may turn out to be sickly).”

The Listeria bacteria may be contracted from raw milk, vegetable salad, and processed meat such as hotdogs or luncheon meat. In general, people infected by the bacteria experience mild fever and are treated with antibiotics. However, experts say, people experiencing worse symptoms ought to receive medical attention.

To avoid further complications by parasites and bacteria, experts warn, prevention is key.