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Occurrence of Toxoplasma gondii in Carcasses of Pigs Reared in Intensive Systems in Northern Italy

Papini, Roberto, Di Ciccio, Pierluigi, Marangi, Marianna, Ghidini, Sergio, Zanardi, Emanuela, Vergara, Alberto, Giangaspero, Annunziata, Nardoni, Simona, Rocchigiani, Guido, Mancianti, Francesca, Ianieri, Adriana
Journal of food protection 2017 v.80 no.3 pp. 515-522
DNA, Toxoplasma gondii, agglutination tests, antibodies, blood, cured meats, diaphragm, farms, finishing, food chain, genotype, ham, heart, humans, immunoglobulin G, loci, meat production, melting, monitoring, muscle tissues, pig carcasses, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, rearing, seroprevalence, slaughterhouses, swine, toxoplasmosis, Italy
To evaluate the occurrence of Toxoplasma gondii and to genetically characterize its isolates in carcasses of industrial fattening pigs, blood, diaphragm, and heart samples were collected from 375 carcasses of pigs slaughtered to be processed for Parma ham production. Pigs had been bred on approved farms (n = 75) located in the so-called Food Valley in Italy. Sera were examined for immunoglobulin G antibodies to T. gondii by modified agglutination test (MAT). Both heart and diaphragm samples from seropositive carcasses were processed for the presence of T. gondii DNA (B1 locus) by real-time PCR and high resolution melting (HRM) assay. Anti-Toxoplasma antibodies were detected in 2.1% of pig carcasses, with titers from 1:10 to 1:320. T. gondii DNA was detected in all (eight) seropositive carcasses and in 11 (5 heart and 6 diaphragm samples) of 16 samples; that is, it was detected in heart tissue in two subjects, in diaphragm tissue in three subjects, and in both muscle tissues in three subjects. Toxoplasma genotypes were determined in seven of eight carcasses: type III was identified in four carcasses, type II in two, and both III and II in one carcass. The serological findings and the molecular detection of T. gondii strains suggest that cured meat products obtained from industrially bred pigs may be potential sources of toxoplasmosis for humans. Our results provide novel, important information regarding the seroprevalence and molecular prevalence of T. gondii in intensively reared pigs within this specific region of Italy, particularly because Parma ham from this region is known and consumed worldwide. On-farm preventive measures combined with slaughterhouse monitoring of carcasses of pigs bred for cured meat production should never be overlooked to prevent the introduction of T. gondii into the food chain and to ensure safety for consumers of these products.