First report of Toxoplasma gondii sporulated oocysts and Giardia duodenalis in commercial green-lipped mussels (Perna canaliculus) in New Zealand

Alicia Coupe, Laryssa Howe, Elizabeth Burrows, Abigail Sine, Anthony Pita, Niluka Velathanthiri, Emilie Vallée, David Hayman, Karen Shapiro, Wendi D. Roe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Pollution of marine ecosystems with the protozoan parasites Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia duodenalis can be studied using bivalve shellfish as biosentinels. Although evidence suggests that these parasites are present in New Zealand coastal waters, the extent of protozoal pollution has not been investigated. This study used optimised molecular methods to detect the presence of Cryptosporidium spp., G. duodenalis and T. gondii in commercially sourced green-lipped mussel (Perna canaliculus), an endemic species found throughout coastal New Zealand. A nested polymerase chain reaction was validated for detection of T. gondii DNA and applied to 104 commercially sourced mussels. Thirteen mussels were positive for T. gondii DNA with an estimated true prevalence of 16.4% using Bayesian statistics, and the presence of T. gondii in mussels was significantly associated with collection during the summer compared with that in the winter (P = 0.003). Consumption of contaminated shellfish may also pose a health risk for humans and marine wildlife. As only sporulated T. gondii oocysts can be infectious, a reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction was used to confirm presence of a sporozoite-specific marker (SporoSAG), detected in four mussels. G. duodenalis assemblage B, known to be pathogenic in humans, was also discovered in 1% mussels, tested by polymerase chain reaction (n = 90). Cryptosporidium spp. was not detected in the sampled mussel haemolymph. Results suggest that New Zealand may have high levels of coastal contamination with T. gondii, particularly in summer months, and that naturally exposed mussels can ingest and retain sporulated oocysts, further establishing shellfish consumption as a health concern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1453-1463
Number of pages11
JournalParasitology Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2018


  • Biosentinels
  • Giardia duodenalis
  • Perna canaliculus
  • SporoSAG
  • Toxoplasma gondii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • veterinary(all)
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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