Methods to produce and safely work with large numbers of Toxoplasma gondii oocysts and bradyzoite cysts

Heather Fritz, B. Barr, A. Packham, A. Melli, Patricia A Conrad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Two major obstacles to conducting studies with Toxoplasma gondii oocysts are the difficulty in reliably producing large numbers of this life stage and safety concerns because the oocyst is the most environmentally resistant stage of this zoonotic organism. Oocyst production requires oral infection of the definitive feline host with adequate numbers of T. gondii organisms to obtain unsporulated oocysts that are shed in the feces for 3-10. days after infection. Since the most successful and common mode of experimental infection of kittens with T. gondii is by ingestion of bradyzoite tissue cysts, the first step in successful oocyst production is to ensure a high bradyzoite tissue cyst burden in the brains of mice that can be used for the oral inoculum. We compared two methods for producing bradyzoite brain cysts in mice, by infecting them either orally or subcutaneously with oocysts. In both cases, oocysts derived from a low passage T. gondii Type II strain (M4) were used to infect eight-ten week-old Swiss Webster mice. First the number of bradyzoite cysts that were purified from infected mouse brains was compared. Then to evaluate the effect of the route of oocyst inoculation on tissue cyst distribution in mice, a second group of mice was infected with oocysts by one of each route and tissues were examined by histology. In separate experiments, brains from infected mice were used to infect kittens for oocyst production. Greater than 1.3 billion oocysts were isolated from the feces of two infected kittens in the first production and greater than 1.8 billion oocysts from three kittens in the second production. Our results demonstrate that oral delivery of oocysts to mice results in both higher cyst loads in the brain and greater cyst burdens in other tissues examined as compared to those of mice that received the same number of oocysts subcutaneously. The ultimate goal in producing large numbers of oocysts in kittens is to generate adequate amounts of starting material for oocyst studies. Given the potential risks of working with live oocysts in the laboratory, we also tested a method of oocyst inactivation by freeze-thaw treatment. This procedure proved to completely inactivate oocysts without evidence of significant alteration of the oocyst molecular integrity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-52
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Microbiological Methods
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • Bradyzoite cyst
  • Inactivation
  • Oocyst
  • Production
  • Purification
  • Toxoplasma gondii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Microbiology (medical)


Dive into the research topics of 'Methods to produce and safely work with large numbers of Toxoplasma gondii oocysts and bradyzoite cysts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this