Toxoplasma gondii infection in seagull chicks is related to the consumption of freshwater food resources

Oscar Cabezón, Marta Cerdà-Cuéllar, Virginia Morera, Ignacio García-Bocanegra, Jacob González-Solís, Sebastian Napp, Maria P. Ribas, Berta Blanch-Lázaro, Xavier Fernández-Aguilar, Noelia Antilles, Sergio López-Soria, Cristina Lorca-Oró, Jitender P. Dubey, Sonia Almería

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Understanding the spread of Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) in wild birds, particularly in those with opportunistic feeding behavior, is of interest for elucidating the epidemiological involvement of these birds in the maintenance and dissemination of the parasite. Overall, from 2009 to 2011, we collected sera from 525 seagull chicks (Yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) and Audouin's gull (L. audouinii)) from 6 breeding colonies in Spain and tested them using the modified agglutination test (MAT) for the presence of antibodies against T. gondii. Chick age was estimated from bill length. Main food source of seagull chicks was evaluated using stable isotope analyses from growing scapular feathers. Overall T. gondii seroprevalence was 21.0% (IC95% 17.5-24.4). A generalized linear mixed-effects model indicated that year (2009) and food source (freshwater) were risk factors associated to the individual risk of infection by T. gondii, while age (days) was close to significance. Freshwater food origin was related to the highest seroprevalence levels, followed by marine origin, supporting freshwater and sewages as important routes of dispersion of T. gondii. Year differences could indicate fluctuating rates of exposure of seagull chicks to T. gondii. Age ranged from 4 to 30 days and seropositivity tended to increase with age (P = 0.07), supporting that seropositivity is related to T. gondii infection rather than to maternal transfer of antibodies, which in gulls is known to sharply decrease with chick age. This study is the first to report T. gondii antibodies in Yellow-legged and Audouin's gulls, thereby extending the range of intermediate hosts for this parasite and underscoring the complexity of its epidemiology.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0150249
JournalPLoS ONE
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016


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