Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum infections in synanthropic rodents from Argentina

Infecções por Toxoplasma gondii e Neospora caninum em roedores sinantrópicos da Argentina

Andrea Dellarupe Bruno Fitte Lais Pardini Lucía María Campero Mariana Bernstein María del Rosario Robles Gastón Moré María Cecilia Venturini Juan Manuel Unzaga About the authors

Abstract

Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum are closely related coccidian parasites (phylum Apicomplexa). This is the first study from urban synanthropic rodent species that involved serological and molecular diagnosis of T. gondii and N. caninum infection, and genotyping of T. gondii in Argentina. A total of 127 rodent samples were trap captured: Mus musculus (n = 78), Rattus norvegicus (n = 26) and Rattus rattus (n = 23). Antibodies against T. gondii and N. caninum were detected by IFAT in 32.8% (40/122) and 0.8% (1/122) of rodent samples, respectively, demonstrating contact with these protozoans. Additionally, T. gondii DNA was detected in 3.3% (4/123) of rodent central nervous system samples and 2 samples were genotyped by multilocus nPCR-RFLP. Neospora caninum DNA was not detected by PCR. The 2 genotyped samples were type III allele for all markers except for SAG-1 (type I for Rat1Arg and type II/III for Rat2Arg) and were identified as #48 and #2 (likely) according to the allele combinations reported on Toxo DB (Toxo-DB). The results of the present study revealed a wide distribution of T. gondii and less for N. caninum, in synanthropic rats and mice in the studied area.

Keywords:
Toxoplasma gondii; Neospora caninum; synanthropic rodent; serology; genotyping

Resumo

Toxoplasma gondii e Neospora caninum são parasitas coccídeos intimamente relacionados (filo Apicomplexa). Este é o primeiro estudo de espécies de roedores sinantrópicos urbanos, o qual envolveu diagnósticos sorológicos e moleculares da infecção por T. gondii e N. caninum e genotipagem de T. gondii na Argentina. Um total de 127 amostras de roedores foram obtidas: Mus musculus (n = 78), Rattus norvegicus (n = 26) e Rattus rattus (n = 23). Anticorpos contra T. gondii e N. caninum foram detectados pela IFAT em 32,8% (40/122) e 0,8% (1/122) das amostras de roedores, respectivamente, demonstrando contato com esses protozoários. Adicionalmente, o DNA de T. gondii foi detectado em 3,3% (4/123) das amostras do sistema nervoso central de roedores e duas amostras foram genotipadas por nPCR-RFLP multilocus. O DNA de N. caninum não foi detectado por PCR. As 2 amostras genotipadas eram do tipo III para todos os marcadores, exceto para SAG-1 (tipo I para Rat1Arg e tipo II / III para Rat2Arg) e foram identificadas como # 48 e # 2 (provavelmente) de acordo com as combinações de alelos relatadas no Toxo DB (Toxo-DB). Os resultados do presente estudo indicam uma ampla distribuição de T. gondii e menor para N. caninum , em ratos e camundongos sinantrópicos na área estudada.

Palavras-chave:
Toxoplasma gondii; Neospora caninum; roedor sinantrópico; sorologia; genotipagem

Introduction

Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum are closely related coccidian parasites (phylum Apicomplexa), with facultative heteroxenous life cycle, with felids and canids as definitive hosts (DH), respectively ( 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ; et al. 2007 Dubey JP, Schares G, Ortega-Mora LM. Epidemiology and control of neosporosis and Neospora caninum. Clin Microbiol Rev 2007; 20(2): 323-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06. PMid:17428888.
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). They share many common morphological and biological features ( 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ; et al. 2007 Dubey JP, Schares G, Ortega-Mora LM. Epidemiology and control of neosporosis and Neospora caninum. Clin Microbiol Rev 2007; 20(2): 323-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06. PMid:17428888.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06 ...
). Most infected intermediate host (IH) are asymptomatic and develop chronic stages of infection with tissue cysts located mainly in central nervous system (CNS) and muscles ( 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ). Infection in IH and DH can be acquired vertically by transplacental passage of parasites (tachyzoites), or horizontally following ingestion of tissues containing cysts (bradyzoites), or food or water contaminated with resistant oocysts excreted in DH feces ( 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ).

Toxoplasma gondii is a worldwide distributed zoonotic parasite that infects most mammal and bird species as IH ( 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ). Susceptible animals present different clinical signs: neuromuscular disorders in dogs, abortion in small ruminants, stillborn and abortion in pigs and fatal toxoplasmosis in Australian marsupials and New World monkeys ( DUBEY, 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ). Clinical signs of human toxoplasmosis include retinal lesions (ocular toxoplasmosis), CNS lesions (mainly associated with congenital toxoplasmosis and immunocompromised patients) and multisystemic failure, especially in immunocompromised patients ( 2014 Weiss LM, Kim K. Toxoplasma Gondii: the model Apicomplexan: perspectives and methods . London: Academic Press; 2014. ). Toxoplasma gondii population has a complex genetic structure classified by nested PCR restriction fragment length polymorphism (nPCR-RFLP) into three major genotypes named as I, II, and III (clonal or canonical types), plus several additional recombinant or non-clonal (atypical) genotypes. Most isolates of T. gondii obtained from animals and humans in North America and Europe correspond to clonal types, mostly by the clonal type II ( DUBEY, 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ; WEISS & KIM 2014 Weiss LM, Kim K. Toxoplasma Gondii: the model Apicomplexan: perspectives and methods . London: Academic Press; 2014. ). In South America the presence of non-clonal isolates of T. gondii with high virulence in mouse model has been detected ( et al. 2008 Pena HF, Gennari SM, Dubey JP, Su C. Population structure and mouse-virulence of Toxoplasma gondii in Brazil. Int J Parasitol 2008; 38(5): 561-569. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2007.09.004. PMid:17963770.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2007...
).

Unlike T. gondii, N. caninum is not a zoonotic disease, with a more restricted host range ( et al. 2007 Dubey JP, Schares G, Ortega-Mora LM. Epidemiology and control of neosporosis and Neospora caninum. Clin Microbiol Rev 2007; 20(2): 323-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06. PMid:17428888.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06 ...
; et al. 2008 McCann CM, Vyse AJ, Salmon RL, Thomas D, Williams DJ, McGarry JW, et al. Lack of serologic evidence of Neospora caninum in humans, England. Emerg Infect Dis 2008; 14(6): 978-980. http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1406.071128. PMid:18507920.
http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1406.07112...
). Neospora caninum is responsible for neuropathy in dogs, showing a striking capacity for highly efficient vertical transmission in bovines and small ruminants ( et al. 2018 Campero LM, Gos ML, Moore DP, Regidor-Cerrillo J, Unzaga JM, More G, et al. Microsatellite pattern analysis of Neospora caninum from a naturally infected goat fetus. Vet Parasitol 2018; 255: 58-60. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2018.03.024. PMid:29773137.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2018...
; et al. 2007 Dubey JP, Schares G, Ortega-Mora LM. Epidemiology and control of neosporosis and Neospora caninum. Clin Microbiol Rev 2007; 20(2): 323-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06. PMid:17428888.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06 ...
). Neospora caninum is one of the most important causes of bovine abortion or stillbirth, resulting in significant economic losses to the dairy and beef industries worldwide ( et al. 2007 Dubey JP, Schares G, Ortega-Mora LM. Epidemiology and control of neosporosis and Neospora caninum. Clin Microbiol Rev 2007; 20(2): 323-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06. PMid:17428888.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06 ...
).

Generally, rodents and other small mammals are considered as one of the sources of T. gondii infection for DH ( 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ). Synanthropic rodents (Mammalia, Rodentia) are widely distributed around the world. The most important synanthropic rodent species in urban areas are Rattus norvegicus , Rattus rattus and Mus musculus that have an enormous ability to adapt to any terrestrial environment ( 2002 Brasil. Manual de controle de roedores. Brasília: FUNASA; 2002. 130 p. ). These rodents could be infected with T. gondii or N. caninum through oocysts ingestion ( 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ; et al. 2007 Dubey JP, Schares G, Ortega-Mora LM. Epidemiology and control of neosporosis and Neospora caninum. Clin Microbiol Rev 2007; 20(2): 323-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06. PMid:17428888.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06 ...
). Also, they could play a key role in dissemination of T. gondii to other domestic or stray carnivorous/omnivorous animals and to themselves through cannibalism habit ( 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ). Congenital transmission of T. gondii and N. caninum occurs at a high rate when rodent are infected during pregnancy ( et al. 2014 Dellarupe A, Regidor-Cerrillo J, Jimenez-Ruiz E, Schares G, Unzaga JM, Venturini MC, et al. Clinical outcome and vertical transmission variability among canine Neospora caninum isolates in a pregnant mouse model of infection. Parasitology 2014; 141(3): 356-366. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0031182013001479. PMid:24148606.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S003118201300...
; 1998 Dubey JP, Frenkel JK. Toxoplasmosis of rats: a review, with considerations of their value as an animal model and their possible role in epidemiology. Vet Parasitol 1998; 77(1): 1-32. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0304-4017(97)00227-6. PMid:9652380.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0304-4017(97...
).

Several studies reported the occurrence of T. gondii natural infection in rodents, by the detection of specific antibodies and/or parasite DNA, or by parasite isolation ( 1998 Dubey JP, Frenkel JK. Toxoplasmosis of rats: a review, with considerations of their value as an animal model and their possible role in epidemiology. Vet Parasitol 1998; 77(1): 1-32. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0304-4017(97)00227-6. PMid:9652380.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0304-4017(97...
; et al. 2014 Yan C, Liang LJ, Zhang BB, Lou ZL, Zhang HF, Shen X, et al. Prevalence and genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in naturally-infected synanthropic rats (Rattus norvegicus) and mice (Mus musculus) in eastern China. Parasit Vectors 2014; 7(1): 591. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-014-0591-6. PMid:25515133.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-014-05...
). In the case of N. caninum, there are only reports of serological study ( et al. 2007 Ferroglio E, Pasino M, Romano A, Grande D, Pregel P, Trisciuoglio A. Evidence of Neospora caninum DNA in wild rodents. Vet Parasitol 2007; 148(3-4): 346-349. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2007.06.031. PMid:17651897.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2007...
; et al. 2004 Huang CC, Yang CH, Watanabe Y, Liao YK, Ooi HK. Finding of Neospora caninum in the wild brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). Vet Res 2004; 35(3): 283-290. http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:2004010. PMid:15210077.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:200401...
). However, there is no information about the presence of these protozoans in synanthropic rodents in Argentina.

The aims of the present study were to detect T. gondii and N. caninum infection in synanthropic rodents by serological and molecular methods and to genetically characterize T. gondii from Gran La Plata, Argentina.

Materials and Methods

Study area

The samples were collected in Gran La Plata, an area formed by La Plata, Berisso and Ensenada departments situated north-west of Buenos Aires province. It has a population of more than 850000 inhabitants, according to the 2010 census and the official projections ( INDEC, 2018 Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos de la República Argentina – INDEC [online]. 2018 [cited 2018 Oct 19]. Available from: https://www.indec.gov.ar
https://www.indec.gov.ar ...
). For this study, six areas of La Plata and one of Berisso departments were involved, representing different levels of urbanization. Five areas were neighborhoods situated on the outskirts of La Plata (local names in italics): Malvinas (34°56’43” S 58°00’36” W), El Retiro (34°57’51” S 58°00’17”W), La Latita (34°58’31” S 57°58’30” W), La Isla (34°53’28” S 57°59’25” W), and Abasto (34°58’05” S 58°01’47”W). One representing the center of the city of La Plata (34°55’16”S, 57°57’16” W); and one in a peripheral area of Berisso: El Carmen (34°55’33” S 57°53’09”W). Most of these areas have socio-structural and environmental issues and inadequate supply of basic urban services, such as garbage removal, sanitation networks, potable water, pavement, areas susceptible to flooding and domestic animals without sufficient care.

Rodent capture

Rodents were trapped and sampled during September 2014 and September 2015 (n = 127), corresponding to the following species: M. musculus ( n = 78), R. rattus (n = 23) and R. norvegicus (n = 26). The animals were captured in Sherman and cage traps. Traps were set in the backyard and inside of the houses offered by habitants of the different areas and were checked daily for 3 days period. The bait used was a mixture made of banana, oat, animal fat, peanut cream, carrots and meat. Sample collection was carried out under official permits granted by Dirección de Flora y Fauna, Ministerio de Asuntos Agrarios de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (expedient N° 22500-7981/10). No endangered species were involved in this study. The specimens were obtained with methods of live capture and sacrificed in a CO2 chamber, following the procedures and protocols approved by national laws (Animal Protection National law 14.346 and references in the provincial permits) and Ethics Committee for research on laboratory, farm and obtained from nature animals of National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) (Resolution 1047, section 2, annex II).

Sample collection

Conventional studies were realized at the Centro de Estudios Parasitológicos y de Vectores (CEPAVE) for the taxonomic identification of the specimens ( 1982 Pritchard MH, Kruse GO. The collection and preservation of animal parasites . Nebraska: The Harold W. Manter Laboratory, University of Nebraska Press; 1982. 141 p. (Technical Bulletin; vol. 1). ) and samples were collected at necropsy for further studies. Blood samples were collected by cardiac puncture and the recovered sera were preserved at -20 ºC for indirect immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT). Samples of CNS were collected in sterile conditions and preserved at -20ºC for PCR and genotyping studies, and in 10% formaldehyde in phosphate buffer solution (PBS) for histopathological studies.

Serological diagnosis

Sera were tested by IFAT for the detection of antibodies against T. gondii , and N. caninum in Laboratorio de Inmunoparasitología, FCV, UNLP (LAINPA). For T. gondii and N. caninum serology, cell culture-derived tachyzoites of RH strains ( 2010 Dubey JP. Toxoplasmosis of animals and humans. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 2010. ) and NC-1 ( et al. 2007 Dubey JP, Schares G, Ortega-Mora LM. Epidemiology and control of neosporosis and Neospora caninum. Clin Microbiol Rev 2007; 20(2): 323-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06. PMid:17428888.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CMR.00031-06 ...
), respectively, were used as antigens and processed as previously described (MORE et al., 2008 Moré G, Basso W, Bacigalupe D, Venturini MC, Venturini L. Diagnosis of Sarcocystis cruzi, Neospora caninum, and Toxoplasma gondii infections in cattle. Parasitol Res 2008; 102(4): 671-675. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00436-007-0810-6. PMid:18066600.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00436-007-08...
), using anti-mouse IgG (IgG, whole molecule)–FITC-conjugate (Sigma–Aldrich, St. Louis, USA) for all rodent species samples. Sera were tested at 3 different dilutions: 1/50; 1/200 and 1/800 ( et al. 2004 Huang CC, Yang CH, Watanabe Y, Liao YK, Ooi HK. Finding of Neospora caninum in the wild brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). Vet Res 2004; 35(3): 283-290. http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:2004010. PMid:15210077.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:200401...
).

PCR diagnosis and genotyping

DNA was extracted from CNS samples using a commercial kit (Wizard® Genomic DNA Purification Kit, Promega) according to the manufacturer’s protocol at LAINPA. The specific PCRs using Tox5-Tox8 and NP6+-NP21+ primers were used to identify T. gondii and N. caninum DNA respectively, as described previously ( et al. 2015 Campero LM, Venturini MC, Moore DP, Massola L, Lagomarsino H, Garcia B, et al. Isolation and molecular characterization of a new Neospora caninum isolate from cattle in Argentina. Exp Parasitol 2015; 155: 8-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.exppara.2015.04.009. PMid:25913666.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.exppara.201...
; et al. 2012 Moré G, Maksimov P, Pardini L, Herrmann DC, Bacigalupe D, Maksimov A, et al. Toxoplasma gondii infection in sentinel and free-range chickens from Argentina. Vet Parasitol 2012; 184(2-4): 116-121. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2011.09.012. PMid:21962965.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2011...
). Each amplification routine was conducted with a positive control (DNA from T. gondii RH strain and N. caninum Nc-1 strain, respectively), and a negative control (control process sample DNA) and a no template control (NTC).

Genotyping of all T. gondii samples was performed by nPCR-RFLP using 10 genetic markers: SAG1, SAG2 (5’3’SAG2, altSAG2), SAG3, BTUB, GRA6, C22-8, C29-2, L358, PK1, and Apico as described previously (MORE et al. 2012 Moré G, Maksimov P, Pardini L, Herrmann DC, Bacigalupe D, Maksimov A, et al. Toxoplasma gondii infection in sentinel and free-range chickens from Argentina. Vet Parasitol 2012; 184(2-4): 116-121. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2011.09.012. PMid:21962965.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2011...
; SU et al., 2006 Su C, Zhang X, Dubey JP. Genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii by multilocus PCR-RFLP markers: a high resolution and simple method for identification of parasites. Int J Parasitol 2006; 36(7): 841-848. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2006.03.003. PMid:16643922.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2006...
). DNA from RH, Me49 and NED T. gondii strains were used as genotype I, II and III controls, respectively. The PCR and nPCR-RFLP products were visualized in 1.5% and 2.5% (except for Apico [3%]) agarose gels (Biodynamics), respectively and stained with SYBR Safe (Invitrogen) using 100 bp standard (Cien Marker, Biodynamics) ( et al. 2012 Moré G, Maksimov P, Pardini L, Herrmann DC, Bacigalupe D, Maksimov A, et al. Toxoplasma gondii infection in sentinel and free-range chickens from Argentina. Vet Parasitol 2012; 184(2-4): 116-121. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2011.09.012. PMid:21962965.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2011...
).

Histopathology

Brain samples were fixed in 10% neutral buffered formalin, and routinely processed for histology and stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E), and examined microscopically for presence of protozoan tissue cysts. This technique was carried out in the CEPAVE.

Results

Serological diagnosis

Antibodies against T. gondii were found in 18/77 M. musculus (23.3%), 7/22 R. rattus (31.8%) and 15/23 R. norvegicus (65.2%). From 5 rodents, serum sample was not achieved (1 M. musculus , 1 R. rattus and 3 R. norvegicus). Distribution of positive samples by IFAT at different serum dilutions is shown in Table 1 . Antibodies against N. caninum were found in only one M. musculus of 77 (1.3%) at 1/50 serum dilution, the rest of sera were negative.

Table 1
Toxoplasma gondii IFAT results in samples from synanthropic rodent species.

PCR and T. gondii genotyping

The DNA was extracted from CNS of 123 rodents (samples were not available in 4 animals). PCR resulted positive to T. gondii in 4/123 (3.3%) samples ( Table 2 ), and negative to N. caninum in all samples. Antibodies against T. gondii were found in 3 of the PCR-positive animals: 2 rodents (1 R. rattus and 1 R. norvegicus) were positive at ≥ 1/800, and one rodent (R. norvegicus) was positive at 1/200.

Table 2
Toxoplasma gondii PCR results from CNS samples of synanthropic rodent species.

Only 2/4 T. gondii PCR-positive samples were successfully genotyped and named Rat1Arg and Rat2Arg. The 2 genotyped samples were type III allele for all markers except for SAG-1 (type I for Rat1Arg and type II/III for Rat2Arg) and were identified as #48 and #2 (likely) according to the allele combinations reported on the online server ToxoDB (2018) ToxoDB [online]. 2018 [cited 2018 Oct 19]. Available from: www.toxodb.org/
www.toxodb.org/...
( Table 3 ). The samples correspond to the animals with the highest T. gondii antibody titer. Genotyping was not successful for the other 2 samples, probably due to the low quantity of T. gondii DNA.

Table 3
Toxoplasma gondii genotyping results from 2 Rattus spp. CNS samples.

Histopathology

Brain samples from 123 rodents (samples were not available in 4 animals), were examined microscopically. Only in one sample (Rat1Arg) protozoan cysts of different sizes, without inflammatory reaction were observed ( Figure 1 ). The brain sample was positive to T. gondii by PCR.

Figure 1
T. gondii cysts (arrows) in a brain section of a rodent (Rat1Arg), H&E staining.

Discussion

This is the first study from urban synanthropic rodent species in Argentina that involved serological and molecular diagnosis of T. gondii and N. caninum infection, and genotyping of T. gondii in the area of Gran La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina. Antibodies against T. gondii and N. caninum were detected by IFAT in 32.8% (40/122) and 0.8% (1/122) of rodent samples, respectively, demonstrating contact with these protozoans. Additionally, T. gondii DNA was detected in 3.3% (4/123) of rodent CNS samples. On the other hand, N. caninum DNA was not detected by PCR. Despite, of the relatively high frequency of anti-T. gondii antibodies detection, only 4 rodents were positive by PCR and only in 2 samples T. gondii genotyping was successful. Interestingly, the CNS samples with high T. gondii DNA burden (allowing complete genotyping) correspond to animals with high antibodies titer (1/800) and one of them was the unique sample where tissue cysts were observed. Similar results have been obtained in other IH, suggesting that high antibody titer correlate with high parasite burden in tissues. In addition, the 2 samples that were negative and with an intermediate titter (1/200) by IFAT resulted positive by PCR, however genotyping was not plausible, suggesting that the amount of T. gondii DNA tissues was low. On the other hand, a low percentage of T. gondii serologically positive animals resulted also positive by PCR, similar as reported by other authors ( et al. 2016 Ruffolo BB, Toledo RS, Martins FD, Bugni FM, Costa L, Marana ER, et al. Isolation and genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in seronegative urban rats and presence of antibodies in communicating dogs in Brazil. Rev Inst Med Trop São Paulo 2016; 58: 28. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1678-9946201658028. PMid:27074322.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1678-9946201...
; et al. 2014 Yan C, Liang LJ, Zhang BB, Lou ZL, Zhang HF, Shen X, et al. Prevalence and genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in naturally-infected synanthropic rats (Rattus norvegicus) and mice (Mus musculus) in eastern China. Parasit Vectors 2014; 7(1): 591. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-014-0591-6. PMid:25515133.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-014-05...
).

Toxoplasma gondii population from South America shows a higher genetic variability than in North America and Europe. Clonal type III as well as non-clonal T. gondii genotypes are overrepresented in South America ( et al. 2008 Pena HF, Gennari SM, Dubey JP, Su C. Population structure and mouse-virulence of Toxoplasma gondii in Brazil. Int J Parasitol 2008; 38(5): 561-569. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2007.09.004. PMid:17963770.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpara.2007...
; et al. 2014 Shwab EK, Zhu XQ, Majumdar D, Pena HF, Gennari SM, Dubey JP, et al. Geographical patterns of Toxoplasma gondii genetic diversity revealed by multilocus PCR-RFLP genotyping. Parasitology 2014; 141(4): 453-461. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0031182013001844. PMid:24477076.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S003118201300...
). Recently, the population structure of T. gondii in Argentina was analyzed, and 39 samples from animals and humans were genotyped using nPCR-RFLP and classified according ToxoDB ( et al. 2018 Bernstein M, Pardini L, More G, Unzaga JM, Su C, Venturini MC. Population structure of Toxoplasma gondii in Argentina. Infect Genet Evol 2018; 65: 72-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018.07.018. PMid:30030206.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018...
). Twenty-nine samples were identified as non-clonal, however phylogenetic network analyses performed revealed that the majority of the samples were grouped with clonal type III lineage, consistent with other studies conducted in South America ( et al. 2014 Shwab EK, Zhu XQ, Majumdar D, Pena HF, Gennari SM, Dubey JP, et al. Geographical patterns of Toxoplasma gondii genetic diversity revealed by multilocus PCR-RFLP genotyping. Parasitology 2014; 141(4): 453-461. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0031182013001844. PMid:24477076.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S003118201300...
). In our work, the genotyped samples were type III allele for all markers except for SAG-1 (type I for Rat1Arg and type II/III for Rat2Arg) and were identified as #48 and #2 (likely) The same genotypes were previously described in Argentina: #48 in samples from a rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) in Buenos Aires ( et al. 2018 Bernstein M, Pardini L, More G, Unzaga JM, Su C, Venturini MC. Population structure of Toxoplasma gondii in Argentina. Infect Genet Evol 2018; 65: 72-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018.07.018. PMid:30030206.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018...
), and #2 from meerkats (Suricata suricatta), one kangaroo (Macropus rufus), and three cats (Felis silvestris catus) in Buenos Aires, and three chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) in Buenos Aires and Entre Rios provinces ( et al. 2009 Basso W, More G, Quiroga MA, Pardini L, Bacigalupe D, Venturini L, et al. Isolation and molecular characterization of Toxoplasma gondii from captive slender-tailed meerkats (Suricata suricatta) with fatal toxoplasmosis in Argentina. Vet Parasitol 2009; 161(3-4): 201-206. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.01.006. PMid:19201541.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009...
; et al. 2018 Bernstein M, Pardini L, More G, Unzaga JM, Su C, Venturini MC. Population structure of Toxoplasma gondii in Argentina. Infect Genet Evol 2018; 65: 72-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018.07.018. PMid:30030206.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018...
; et al. 2010 Moré G, Pardini L, Basso W, Machuca M, Bacigalupe D, Villanueva MC, et al. Toxoplasmosis and genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in Macropus rufus and Macropus giganteus in Argentina. Vet Parasitol 2010; 169(1-2): 57-61. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.12.004. PMid:20045255.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009...
). In the case of the rabbit, meerkats and the kangaroo, the T. gondii infection was fatal ( et al. 2009 Basso W, More G, Quiroga MA, Pardini L, Bacigalupe D, Venturini L, et al. Isolation and molecular characterization of Toxoplasma gondii from captive slender-tailed meerkats (Suricata suricatta) with fatal toxoplasmosis in Argentina. Vet Parasitol 2009; 161(3-4): 201-206. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.01.006. PMid:19201541.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009...
; et al. 2018 Bernstein M, Pardini L, More G, Unzaga JM, Su C, Venturini MC. Population structure of Toxoplasma gondii in Argentina. Infect Genet Evol 2018; 65: 72-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018.07.018. PMid:30030206.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018...
; et al. 2010 Moré G, Pardini L, Basso W, Machuca M, Bacigalupe D, Villanueva MC, et al. Toxoplasmosis and genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in Macropus rufus and Macropus giganteus in Argentina. Vet Parasitol 2010; 169(1-2): 57-61. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.12.004. PMid:20045255.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009...
).

In Argentina, several studies have been conducted to isolate and genotype T. gondii from different animal species from different regions ( et al. 2009 Basso W, More G, Quiroga MA, Pardini L, Bacigalupe D, Venturini L, et al. Isolation and molecular characterization of Toxoplasma gondii from captive slender-tailed meerkats (Suricata suricatta) with fatal toxoplasmosis in Argentina. Vet Parasitol 2009; 161(3-4): 201-206. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.01.006. PMid:19201541.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009...
; MORE et al., 2012; et al. 2016 Pardini L, More G, Rudzinski M, Gos ML, Campero LM, Meyer A, et al. Toxoplasma gondii isolates from chickens in an area with human toxoplasmic retinochoroiditis. Exp Parasitol 2016; 166: 16-20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.exppara.2016.03.006. PMid:26968777.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.exppara.201...
). As stated before, samples from Buenos Aires province showed clonal genotypes as well as non-clonal genotypes grouped with type III lineage. Additionally, different regions showed different predominance of genotypes ( BERNSTEIN et al. 2018 Bernstein M, Pardini L, More G, Unzaga JM, Su C, Venturini MC. Population structure of Toxoplasma gondii in Argentina. Infect Genet Evol 2018; 65: 72-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018.07.018. PMid:30030206.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018...
). The samples obtained in our study correlates with other samples obtained from the same region/province ( et al. 2009 Basso W, More G, Quiroga MA, Pardini L, Bacigalupe D, Venturini L, et al. Isolation and molecular characterization of Toxoplasma gondii from captive slender-tailed meerkats (Suricata suricatta) with fatal toxoplasmosis in Argentina. Vet Parasitol 2009; 161(3-4): 201-206. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.01.006. PMid:19201541.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009...
; et al. 2018 Bernstein M, Pardini L, More G, Unzaga JM, Su C, Venturini MC. Population structure of Toxoplasma gondii in Argentina. Infect Genet Evol 2018; 65: 72-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018.07.018. PMid:30030206.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018...
; et al. 2010 Moré G, Pardini L, Basso W, Machuca M, Bacigalupe D, Villanueva MC, et al. Toxoplasmosis and genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in Macropus rufus and Macropus giganteus in Argentina. Vet Parasitol 2010; 169(1-2): 57-61. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.12.004. PMid:20045255.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2009...
; et al. 2016 Pardini L, More G, Rudzinski M, Gos ML, Campero LM, Meyer A, et al. Toxoplasma gondii isolates from chickens in an area with human toxoplasmic retinochoroiditis. Exp Parasitol 2016; 166: 16-20. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.exppara.2016.03.006. PMid:26968777.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.exppara.201...
).

In Brazil, a study analyzed 181 R. rattus and one M. musculus to investigate the role of rodents in the epidemiology of toxoplasmosis by IFAT and mice bioassay. A T. gondii prevalence of 8.8% was detected. Four isolates from tissues were obtained, and the genotyping by nPCR-RFLP was performed using the same markers used in this study plus CS3. Genotyping revealed that all isolates were non-clonal (# 14 and # 21, with predominance of type III alleles) ( et al. 2016 Ruffolo BB, Toledo RS, Martins FD, Bugni FM, Costa L, Marana ER, et al. Isolation and genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in seronegative urban rats and presence of antibodies in communicating dogs in Brazil. Rev Inst Med Trop São Paulo 2016; 58: 28. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1678-9946201658028. PMid:27074322.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1678-9946201...
). These allele combinations are frequently observed for T. gondii isolates from South America ( et al. 2018 Bernstein M, Pardini L, More G, Unzaga JM, Su C, Venturini MC. Population structure of Toxoplasma gondii in Argentina. Infect Genet Evol 2018; 65: 72-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018.07.018. PMid:30030206.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018...
; et al. 2012 Rajendran C, Su C, Dubey JP. Molecular genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii from Central and South America revealed high diversity within and between populations. Infect Genet Evol 2012; 12(2): 359-368. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2011.12.010. PMid:22226702.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2011...
). In the present study a higher proportion of seropositive animals were detected, probably due to the environment conditions where rodents were sampled. Also, a slightly higher proportion of parasites in tissues were detected compared to mice bioassay performed in Brazil (2.2%) ( et al. 2016 Ruffolo BB, Toledo RS, Martins FD, Bugni FM, Costa L, Marana ER, et al. Isolation and genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in seronegative urban rats and presence of antibodies in communicating dogs in Brazil. Rev Inst Med Trop São Paulo 2016; 58: 28. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1678-9946201658028. PMid:27074322.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/s1678-9946201...
). The T. gondii genotypes observed in rodents from Brazil were also identified in animals and humans from Argentina ( et al. 2018 Bernstein M, Pardini L, More G, Unzaga JM, Su C, Venturini MC. Population structure of Toxoplasma gondii in Argentina. Infect Genet Evol 2018; 65: 72-79. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018.07.018. PMid:30030206.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2018...
).

In a study performed in China, 123 synanthropic rodents were analyzed by T. gondii PCR and detected 23.6% positive samples, with proportions of positive samples of 22.6% in M. musculus and 23.9% in R. novergicus. The genotyping by nPCR-RFLP was complete in seven samples, all identified as non-clonal (ToxoDB #9) ( et al. 2014 Yan C, Liang LJ, Zhang BB, Lou ZL, Zhang HF, Shen X, et al. Prevalence and genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in naturally-infected synanthropic rats (Rattus norvegicus) and mice (Mus musculus) in eastern China. Parasit Vectors 2014; 7(1): 591. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-014-0591-6. PMid:25515133.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-014-05...
), similar scenario as in South America ( 2014 Weiss LM, Kim K. Toxoplasma Gondii: the model Apicomplexan: perspectives and methods . London: Academic Press; 2014. ). Considering that these authors analyzed by PCR exactly the same number of samples as we have, a higher proportion (7 fold) of positive samples was observed in Chinese rodents. The sampled area in China has a higher population and concentration than Gran La Plata sampled area ( et al. 2014 Yan C, Liang LJ, Zhang BB, Lou ZL, Zhang HF, Shen X, et al. Prevalence and genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in naturally-infected synanthropic rats (Rattus norvegicus) and mice (Mus musculus) in eastern China. Parasit Vectors 2014; 7(1): 591. http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-014-0591-6. PMid:25515133.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-014-05...
). Probably, overcrowding urban environments facilitates the T. gondii infection in synanthropic rodent populations by scavenging and cannibalism behavior.

Several studies investigated the role of rodents in the epidemiology of neosporosis, indicating the presence of positive animals by serological and molecular studies ( et al. 2007 Ferroglio E, Pasino M, Romano A, Grande D, Pregel P, Trisciuoglio A. Evidence of Neospora caninum DNA in wild rodents. Vet Parasitol 2007; 148(3-4): 346-349. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2007.06.031. PMid:17651897.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2007...
; et al. 2004 Huang CC, Yang CH, Watanabe Y, Liao YK, Ooi HK. Finding of Neospora caninum in the wild brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). Vet Res 2004; 35(3): 283-290. http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:2004010. PMid:15210077.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:200401...
; et al. 2007 Jenkins MC, Parker C, Hill D, Pinckney RD, Dyer R, Dubey JP. Neospora caninum detected in feral rodents. Vet Parasitol 2007; 143(2): 161-165. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2006.08.011. PMid:16997474.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2006...
). In this study, antibodies against N. caninum were found in only one M. musculus of 78 (1.28%), while molecular studies were negative in all cases. Unfortunately the serum volume obtained from this animal was not enough to perform another serological test such as immunoblot, in order to confirm the IFAT result. Possibly these differences are related to the rodent habitat, since in this case they came from peri-urban areas, while rodents from other studies inhabited cattle farms with N. caninum abortion, where the environmental contamination with N. caninum oocysts could be an important source of infection ( et al. 2007 Ferroglio E, Pasino M, Romano A, Grande D, Pregel P, Trisciuoglio A. Evidence of Neospora caninum DNA in wild rodents. Vet Parasitol 2007; 148(3-4): 346-349. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2007.06.031. PMid:17651897.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2007...
; et al. 2004 Huang CC, Yang CH, Watanabe Y, Liao YK, Ooi HK. Finding of Neospora caninum in the wild brown rat (Rattus norvegicus). Vet Res 2004; 35(3): 283-290. http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:2004010. PMid:15210077.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:200401...
; et al. 2007 Jenkins MC, Parker C, Hill D, Pinckney RD, Dyer R, Dubey JP. Neospora caninum detected in feral rodents. Vet Parasitol 2007; 143(2): 161-165. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2006.08.011. PMid:16997474.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2006...
).

Disorganized population growth and development of towns, cities and megalopolises lead to basic sanitation problems and offer ideal conditions for the establishment of synanthropic rodent populations ( 2002 Brasil. Manual de controle de roedores. Brasília: FUNASA; 2002. 130 p. ). The free-living animals such as stray cats, dogs and rodents could be used as sentinels of environmental spreading with T. gondii and N. caninum in densely built urban areas as they are exposed to all the infective forms of the parasite and feed on various sources of food on the ground ( et al. 2006 Hughes JM, Williams RH, Morley EK, Cook DA, Terry RS, Murphy RG, et al. The prevalence of Neospora caninum and co-infection with Toxoplasma gondii by PCR analysis in naturally occurring mammal populations. Parasitology 2006; 132(1): 29-36. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0031182005008784. PMid:16393351.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S003118200500...
; et al. 2012 Meerburg BG, De Craeye S, Dierick K, Kijlstra A. Neospora caninum and Toxoplasma gondii in brain tissue of feral rodents and insectivores caught on farms in the Netherlands. Vet Parasitol 2012; 184(2-4): 317-320. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2011.09.001. PMid:21958437.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.vetpar.2011...
).

Areas involved in this study present partial or total lack of sanitation services, and the presence of precarious and critical overcrowding homes ( et al. 2007 Oyhenart E, Torres M, Quintero F, Luis M, Cesani M, Zucchi M, et al. Estado nutricional y composición corporal de niños pobres residentes en barrios perifericos de La Plata (Argentina). Rev Panam Salud Publica 2007; 22(3): 194-201. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892007000800006. PMid:18062854.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-4989200...
). Also, there is a high number of dogs and cats without responsible care. Probably such conditions contribute to a higher exposure of humans and animals to the different infecting forms of the studied protozoa that represent a sanitary risk. In Buenos Aires Province, the registered rate of human toxoplasmosis was 49% in pregnant women ( et al. 2008 Carral L, Kaufer F, Durlach R, Freuler C, Olejnik P, Nadal M, et al. Estudio multicéntrico para la prevención de la toxoplasmosis prenatal en Buenos Aires. Medicina 2008; 68(6): 417-422. PMid:19147421. ) and specific antibodies were detected in 35% of blood donors (from Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires) ( et al. 2008 Durlach R, Kaufer F, Carral L, Freuler C, Ceriotto M, Rodriguez M, et al. Consenso argentino de toxoplasmosis congénita. Medicina 2008; 68(1): 75-87. PMid:18416325. ).

To our knowledge, this is the first report of serology and molecular study of T. gondii and N. caninum, and genetic characterization of T. gondii in synanthropic rodents in Argentina. The results of the present study revealed a wide distribution of T. gondii and less for N. caninum , in synanthropic rats and mice in the studied area. Two different atypical allele combinations (most type III alleles) genotypes of T. gondii were identified, which had been previously reported in other animals in the same region. Isolates with similar allele combinations have demonstrated high-moderate virulence in mice bioassays. These results provide basic information for greater prevention and control of toxoplasmosis in animals and humans. In this context, synanthropic rodents behave as sentinels of zoonotic diseases and could help implement measures to reduce risks for human and animal infection.

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank to Emilio Topa for the preparation of the tissue fragments (slides), and Isidoro Ercoli and Selva Peñaloza for their excellent technical assistance. This study was funded by Proyectos de Investigación Orientados (Project ID: PIO 13420130100013CO), from Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and Universidad Nacional de La Plata (UNLP).

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    Jan-Mar 2019
  • Date of issue
    Mar 2019

History

  • Received
    19 Oct 2018
  • Accepted
    21 Jan 2019
Colégio Brasileiro de Parasitologia Veterinária FCAV/UNESP - Departamento de Patologia Veterinária, Via de acesso Prof. Paulo Donato Castellane s/n, Zona Rural, , 14884-900 Jaboticabal - SP, Brasil, Fone: (16) 3209-7100 RAMAL 7934 - Jaboticabal - SP - Brazil
E-mail: cbpv_rbpv.fcav@unesp.br