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Direct high-resolution genotyping of Toxoplasma gondii in arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) in the remote arctic Svalbard archipelago reveals widespread clonal Type II lineage

Prestrud, Kristin Wear, Åsbakk, Kjetil, Mørk, Torill, Fuglei, Eva, Tryland, Morten, Su, Chunlei
Veterinary parasitology 2008 v.158 no.1-2 pp. 121-128
genotype, Toxoplasma gondii, Vulpes, loci, toxoplasmosis, wildlife diseases, nucleotide sequences, microbial genetics, disease transmission, Arctic region
Characterization of Toxoplasma gondii genotypes in hosts living in remote, isolated regions is important for elucidating the population structure and transmission mode of this parasite. Herein, we report the results of direct genotyping of T. gondii in brain tissue of arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) from the remote, virtually cat-free, high arctic islands of Svalbard. DNA extracts from brains of 167 seropositive arctic foxes (including four cases of fatal toxoplasmosis) and 11 seronegative arctic foxes were genotyped at 10 loci (SAG1, SAG2, SAG3, BTUB, GRA6, L358, c22-8, c29-2, PK1, and Apico) using the polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism method. Of the 167 samples from seropositive foxes (including toxoplasmosis cases), 31 were genotyped at all 10 loci and 24 were genotyped at four to nine loci. To ensure confidence in T. gondii strain genotyping, samples for which less than four loci were genotyped were not considered positive. None of the 11 samples from seronegative foxes was positive for the 10 markers. Of the 55 samples that genotyped positively, 46 were of the Type II strain, 7 were of the Type III strain, and 2 were of atypical T. gondii strains. Five representative samples of the three genotypes were sequenced at loci SAG2, SAG3, GRA6, PK1, and UPRT-1. The DNA sequences confirmed the genotyping results. This study shows that the archetype Type II T. gondii strain, which is most widely distributed in North America and Europe, also predominates in arctic foxes on the Svalbard archipelago. This suggests that the T. gondii at this location originate from continental Europe and that transmission may be mediated by migrating birds. This study highlights the significance of long-distance transport of T. gondii and demonstrates that high-resolution genotyping protocols are useful for direct genetic studies of T. gondii when isolation of live parasites is infeasible.