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Concentration and retention of Toxoplasma gondii oocysts by marine snails demonstrate a novel mechanism for transmission of terrestrial zoonotic pathogens in coastal ecosystems

August 31, 2015

The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is an environmentally persistent pathogen that can cause fatal disease in humans, terrestrial warm-blooded animals and aquatic mammals. Although an association between T. gondii exposure and prey specialization on marine snails was identified in threatened California sea otters, the ability of kelp-dwelling snails to transmit terrestrially derived pathogens has not been previously investigated. The objective of this study was to measure concentration and retention of T. gondii by marine snails in laboratory aquaria, and to test for natural T. gondii contamination in field-collected snails. Following exposure to T. gondii-containing seawater, oocysts were detected by microscopy in snail faeces and tissues for 10 and 3 days respectively. Nested polymerase chain reaction was also applied as a method for confirming putative T. gondii oocysts detected in snail faeces and tissues by microscopy. Toxoplasma gondiiwas not detected in field-collected snails. Results suggest that turban snails are competent transport hosts for T. gondii. By concentrating oocysts in faecal pellets, snails may facilitate entry of T. gondii into the nearshore marine food web. This novel mechanism also represents a general pathway by which marine transmission of terrestrially derived microorganisms can be mediated via pathogen concentration and retention by benthic invertebrates.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Concentration and retention of <i>Toxoplasma gondii</i> oocysts by marine snails demonstrate a novel mechanism for transmission of terrestrial zoonotic pathogens in coastal ecosystems
DOI 10.1111/1462-2920.12927
Authors Colin Krusor, Woutrina A. Smith, M. Tim Tinker, Mary Silver, Patricia A. Conrad, Karen Shapiro
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Microbiology
Series Number
Index ID 70156723
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Ecological Research Center

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