Detection of Toxoplasma gondii in retail meat samples in Scotland

Jacqueline Plaza Filip Dámek Isabelle Villena Elisabeth A. Innes Frank Katzer Clare M.Hamilton

• Toxoplasma gondii DNA was detected in pork, lamb, chicken and venison products.

• None of the beef samples tested were positive for T. gondii DNA.

• Venison could be a high-risk meat for T. gondii infection.

• Non-clonal genotypes may be present in venison products in Scotland.

Toxoplasma gondii is a globally important zoonotic parasite ranked as one of the most significant causes of disease burden among the major foodborne pathogens. Consumption of undercooked meat is a well-known risk factor for infection so the aim of this study was to investigate the presence of T. gondii in meat samples from retail outlets in Scotland. In Sampling Period 1, 300 meat samples (39 beef, 21 chicken, 87 lamb, 71 pork and 82 venison) were purchased from butchers', farmers' markets, farm shops and supermarkets, and in Sampling Period 2, 67 pure venison samples only were purchased from farmers' markets, farm shops and supermarkets. DNA was extracted and screened for T. gondii using a quantitative PCR targeting the 529 bp repeat element, and any positive samples were genotyped using PCR-RFLP targeting 10 markers. Meat juice was screened for T. gondii antibodies using a commercial ELISA or modified agglutination assay. Toxoplasma gondii DNA was detected in 0/39 (0%) beef samples, 1/21 (4.8%) chicken samples, 6/87 (6.9%) lamb samples, 3/71 (4.2%) pork samples and 29/82 (35.4%; Sampling Period 1) and 19/67 (28.4%; Sampling Period 2) venison samples. Partial PCR-RFLP genotyping revealed both clonal and non-clonal genotypes. Antibodies to T. gondii were detected in the meat juice of 2/38 (5.3%) beef samples, 3/21 (14.3%) chicken samples, 14/85 (16.5%) lamb samples, 2/68 (2.9%) pork samples and 11/78 (14.1%; Sampling Period 1) and 8/50 (16%; Sampling Period 2) venison samples. This is the first study to report the presence of T. gondii in retail meat products in Scotland and has highlighted venison as a potentially high risk meat. Further work is required to determine viability of parasites in this particular meat product.

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