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Genetic characterisation of Toxoplasma gondii in wildlife from North America revealed widespread and high prevalence of the fourth clonal type

Dubey, J. P.; Velmurugan, G. V.; Rajendran, C.; Yabsley, M. J.; Thomas, N. J.; Beckmen, K. B.; Sinnett, D.; Ruid, D.; Hart, J.; Fair, P. A.; McFee, W. E.; Shearn-Bochsler, V.; Kwok, O. C. H.; Ferreira, L. R.; Choudhary, S.; Faria, E. B.; Zhou, H.; Felix, T. A.; Su, Chunlei

Little is known of the genetic diversity of Toxoplasma gondii circulating in wildlife. In the present study wild animals, from the USA were examined for T. gondii infection. Tissues of naturally exposed animals were bioassayed in mice for isolation of viable parasites. Viable T. gondii was isolated from 31 animals including, to our knowledge for the first time, from a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), five gray wolves (Canis lupus), a woodrat (Neotoma micropus), and five Arctic foxes (Alopex lagopus). Additionally, 66 T. gondii isolates obtained previously, but not genetically characterised, were revived in mice. Toxoplasma gondii DNA isolated from these 97 samples (31 + 66) was characterised using 11 PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) markers (SAG1, 5′- and 3′-SAG2, alt.SAG2, SAG3, BTUB, GRA6, c22–8, c29–2, L358, PK1 and Apico). A total of 95 isolates were successfully genotyped. In addition to clonal Types II, and III, 12 different genotypes were found. These genotype data were combined with 74 T. gondii isolates previously characterised from wildlife from North America and a composite data set of 169 isolates comprised 22 genotypes, including clonal Types II, III and 20 atypical genotypes. Phylogenetic network analysis showed limited diversity with dominance of a recently designated fourth clonal type (Type 12) in North America, followed by the Type II and III lineages. These three major lineages together accounted for 85% of strains in North America. The Type 12 lineage includes previously identified Type A and X strains from sea otters. This study revealed that the Type 12 lineage accounts for 46.7% (79/169) of isolates and is dominant in wildlife of North America. No clonal Type I strain was identified among these wildlife isolates. These results suggest that T. gondii strains in wildlife from North America have limited diversity, with the occurrence of only a few major clonal types. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2011.06.005

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