Mapping, cluster detection and evaluation of risk factors of ovine toxoplasmosis in Southern Italy

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Roberto Condoleo
Vincenzo Musella
Maria Paola Maurelli
Antonio Bosco
Giuseppe Cringoli
Laura Rinaldi *
(*) Corresponding Author:
Laura Rinaldi | lrinaldi@unina.it

Abstract

Toxoplasmosis, an important cause of reproductive failure in sheep, is responsible for significant economic losses to the ovine industry worldwide. Moreover, ovine meat contaminated by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii is considered as a common source of infection for humans. The aim of this study was to develop point and risk profiling maps of T. gondii seroprevalence in sheep bred in Campania Region (Southern Italy) and analyse risk factors associated at the flock-level. We used serological data from a previous survey of 117 sheep flocks, while environmental and farm management information were obtained from an analysis based on geographical information systems and a questionnaire purveyance, respectively. An univariate Poisson regression model revealed that the type of farm production (milk and meat vs only meat) was the only independent variable associated with T. gondii positivity (P<0.02); the higher within-flock seroprevalence in milking herds suggests that milking practices might influence the spread of the infection on the farm. Neither environmental nor other management variables were significant. Since a majority of flocks were seasonally or permanently on pasture, the animals have a high exposure to infectious T. gondii oocysts, so the high within-flock seroprevalence might derive from this management factor. However, further studies are needed to better assess the actual epidemiological situation of toxoplasmosis in sheep and to clarify the factors that influence its presence and distribution.

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