Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate intracellular parasite, can be transmitted to humans via the consumption of infected meat. However, there are currently no veterinary diagnostic tests available for the screening of animals at slaughter. In the current work, we investigated whether cytokine responses in the blood, and antibody responses against recombinant T. gondii GRA1, GRA7, MIC3 proteins and a chimeric antigen EC2 encoding MIC2-MIC3-SAG1, are associated with the infectivity of porcine tissues after experimental infection with T. gondii. Two weeks after experimental infection of conventional 5-week-old seronegative pigs, an IFN-gamma response was detected in the blood, with a kinetic profile that followed the magnitude of the GRA7 antibody response. Antibody responses to GRA1, MIC3 and EC2 were very weak or absent up to 6 weeks post infection. Antibodies against GRA7 occurred in all infected animals and were associated with the presence of the parasite in tissues at euthanasia a few months later, as demonstrated by quantitative real-time PCR and isolation by bio-assay. Remarkably, although brain and heart tissue remained infectious, musculus gastrocnemius and musculus longissimus dorsi were found clear of infectious parasites 6 months after experimental infection. Seropositive response in a GRA7 ELISA indicates a Toxoplasma infection in pigs and is predictive of the presence of infectious cysts in pig heart and brain. This new ELISA is a promising tool to study the prevalence of Toxoplasma infection in pigs. Clearance of the infection in certain pig tissues suggests that the risk assessment of pig meat for human health needs further evaluation.
- Animal diseases
- Toxoplasma gondii
- Laboratory techniques and procedures