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Spatio-temporal variations and age effect on Toxoplasma gondii seroprevalence in seals from the Canadian Arctic

  • A. SIMON (a1), M. CHAMBELLANT (a2) (a3), B. J. WARD (a4), M. SIMARD (a5), J. F. PROULX (a6), B. LEVESQUE (a7) (a8), M. BIGRAS-POULIN (a1), A. N. ROUSSEAU (a9) and N. H. OGDEN (a10)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 04 August 2011

Toxoplasmosis is a significant public health threat for Inuit in the Canadian Arctic. This study aimed to investigate arctic seals as a possible food-borne source of infection. Blood samples collected from 828 seals in 7 Canadian Arctic communities from 1999 to 2006 were tested for Toxoplasma gondii antibodies using a direct agglutination test. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used to detect T. gondii DNA in tissues of a subsample of seals. Associations between seal age, sex, species, diet, community and year of capture, and serological test results were investigated by logistic regression. Overall seroprevalence was 10·4% (86/828). All tissues tested were negative by PCR. In ringed seals, seroprevalence was significantly higher in juveniles than in adults (odds ratio=2·44). Overall, seroprevalence varied amongst communities (P=0·0119) and by capture year (P=0·0001). Our study supports the hypothesis that consumption of raw seal meat is a significant source of infection for Inuit. This work raises many questions about the mechanism of transfer of this terrestrial parasite to the marine environment, the preponderance of infection in younger animals and the natural course of infection in seals. Further studies to address these questions are essential to fully understand the health risks for Inuit communities.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: Groupe de recherche en épidémiologie des zoonoses et santé publique, Faculté de médecine vétérinaire, Université de Montréal, 3200 Sicotte, C.P. 5000, Saint-Hyacinthe, J2S 7C6, Québec, Canada. Tel: +1(450) 773 8521 ext. 0082. Fax: +1(450) 778 8129. E-mail:
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