Rodents are recognized as reservoirs for Toxoplasma gondii, playing a crucial role in maintaining the parasite’s presence in the environment. Biomonitoring was conducted to assess the role of sylvatic rodents in maintaining T. gondii, and to analyse the prevalence and seroprevalence of the parasite in seven wild rodent species. Rodents were collected in an open grassland study site located in northeastern Poland, and dissected. Brain, spleen, blood and serum samples were collected. Molecular (PCR assay, nested-PCR assay) and serological (ELISA and agglutination tests) methods were applied to indicate the best approach for application in the biomonitoring of T. gondii in small mammals. Samples were screened from 68 individuals using PCR assays but no T. gondii DNA were found. The agglutination test showed no signal. Antibodies against T. gondii were found in 5 sera samples out of 56 analysed (seroprevalence = 8.9% [4.4–16.8]). The results confirmed that rodents participate in the life cycle of T. gondii as reservoirs of this parasite in the sylvatic environment. However, for effective bio-monitoring of T. gondii in small mammals, the results suggest a preference for utilizing ELISA tests to detect T. gondii antigens, as opposed to relying solely on molecular methods.
Institutional Review Board Statement: This study was carried out in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guidelines for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the Polish National Ethics Committee for Animal Experimentation, and according to the Polish national law for field work involving the trapping and culling of wild unprotected vertebrates for scientific purposes (Resolution No. 12/2022 of the Polish National Ethics Committee for Animal Experiments, 11 March 2022). The study was performed according to the ARRIVE guidelines 2.0.
The authors thank the Universities of Nottingham (UK) and Warsaw, and the Medical University of Gdańsk for financial support, as well as the Masurian Centre for Biodiversity and Nature Education in Urwitałt, Poland, for hospitability in the field station.
The research was co-funded through the 2018–2019 BiodivERsA joint call for research proposals under the BiodivERsA3 ERA-Net COFUND programme. The funding organisations ANR (France), DFG (Germany), EPA (Ireland), FWO (Belgium), and NCN (Poland). JN, MG and AG were supported by the National Science Centre in Kraków, Poland, under the BiodivERsA3 programme (2019/31/Z/NZ8/04028). MK was supported by the National Science Centre under the Preludium BIS programme 2020/39/O/NZ6/01777. JMB was supported by the Royal Society, the British Ecological Society and the Grabowski Fund in London, UK.
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