BSP Spring Meeting 2019
Schedule : Back to Dr Sameena Haq

Population Genetics as a Tool for the detection of vertical transmission of Toxoplasma gondii in a wild population of Apodemus sylvaticus (long-tailed woodmouse) from Malham Tarn, UK.

Mon15  Apr05:45pm(3 mins)
Renold C16


S Haq1; G Hide1
1 University of Salford, UK


Toxoplasma gondii is an intracellular protozoan parasite, with the cat as a definitive host that causes significant human and animal disease. Different strains of the parasite have been identified – classically defined as Type I, II or III although, recently, other genotypes have been discovered. The relationship between parasite genotype and infection is unknown. The routes of transmission of the parasite are also unclear and recent studies have highlighted the involvement of vertical transmission. This study involved looking at the use of alternative molecular techniques such as population genetics thus developing novel approaches to investigate the presence and epidemiology of T. gondii in a wild population of Apodemus sylvaticus (Haq et al., In Press).

Found in Western Europe and considered a pest, few studies have been conducted on the prevalence of Toxoplasma in the long-tailed woodmouse Apodemus sylvaticus and none reported in the UK. Furthermore, to date, there were no studies which have attempted to investigate infection in A. sylvaticus in relation to cats. Also, previous studies showed high levels of congenital transmission of Toxoplasma in murine hosts experimentally infected (Beverley, 1959; Owen and Trees, 1998). Additionally in a naturally infected population of the urban house mouse (Mus domesticus) it was found that there was a 59% prevalence for T. gondii within that species (Marshall et al., 2004) and thus a high level of transmission in natural urban populations was occurring (Murphy et al., 2008). This hypothesis further casts doubts as to the involvement of mice in the prevalence of T. gondii in cats and requires further studies to clarify the issue (Marshall et al., 2004). However, conversely to this some studies have reported very low prevalence’s of T. gondii of less than 1% suggesting that mice may not be an important reservoir (Smith and Frenkel, 1995) until further alternative scientific evidence is available. Earlier studies must be analysed and questioned in great depth, in order to steer any new research towards a robust answer and thus a more definite conclusion.

With regards to the study by Murphy et al. (2008) Mus domesticus mice were collected from a predominantly cat ridden area of Greater Manchester. This presented opportunity of comparison to A. sylvaticus where there were no known cats in the area surrounding. Further studies with different species of mice and controlled habitats are necessary as this could prove a vital piece in the jigsaw taking us even closer to the roles of rodents as intermediate hosts. Furthermore, the use of the same techniques i.e. DNA extraction, PCR protocol etc in both rodent populations enabled a direct comparison in terms of technical aspects (Gerwash, 2007).

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