Clams and potential foodborne Toxoplasma gondii in Nunavut, Canada

Rebecca Fung, Anna J.W. Manore, Sherilee L. Harper, Jan M. Sargeant, Jamal Shirley, Amy Caughey, Karen Shapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii exposure in Inuit living in Nunavut (20%) is twice that of the US (11%); however, routes of exposure for Inuit communities in North America are unclear. Exposure to T. gondii in humans has been linked with consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish that can accumulate environmentally resistant oocysts. Bivalve shellfish, such as clams, are an important, nutritious, affordable and accessible source of food in many Northern Communities. To date, presence of T. gondii in clams in Northern Canada has not been reported. In this study, we tested for T. gondii presence in clams (Mya truncata) that were harvested in Iqaluit, Nunavut over a 1-week period in September 2016. Of 390 clams, eight (2.1%) were confirmed to contain T. gondii DNA (≥99.7% identity), as determined using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and sequence confirmation. Additionally, three clams (0.8%) were confirmed to contain Neospora caninum-like DNA (≥99.2% identity). While N. caninum is not known to be a zoonotic pathogen, its presence in shellfish indicates contamination of the nearshore with canid faeces, and the potential for marine mammal exposure through marine food webs. Notably, the PCR assay employed in this study does not discriminate between viable and non-viable parasites. These findings suggest a possible route for parasite exposure through shellfish in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Future research employing viability testing will further inform public health messaging on the infectious potential of T. gondii in shellfish.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalZoonoses and Public Health
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • country food
  • inuit
  • iqaluit
  • Neospora caninum
  • public health
  • shellfish
  • Toxoplasma gondii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • veterinary(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases

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