Transplacental toxoplasmosis in a wild southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis)

Melissa Miller, Patricia A Conrad, E. R. James, Andrea Packham, Sharon Toy-Choutka, Michael J. Murray, David Jessup, Michael Grigg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In September 2004, a neonatal sea otter pup was found alive on the beach in northern Monterey Bay, CA. Efforts to locate the mother were unsuccessful. Due to a poor prognosis for successful rehabilitation, the pup was euthanized. Postmortem examination revealed emaciation, systemic lymphadenopathy and a malformation of the left cerebral temporal lobe. On histopathology, free tachyzoites and tissue cysts compatible with Toxoplasma gondii were observed in the brain, heart, thymus, liver, lymph nodes and peri-umbilical adipose. The presence of T. gondii within host tissues was associated with lymphoplasmacytic inflammation and tissue necrosis. Immunofluorescent antibody tests using postmortem serum were positive for anti-T. gondii IgM and IgG (at 1:320 and 1:1280 serum dilution, respectively), but were negative for IgG directed against Sarcocystis neurona and Neospora caninum (<1:40 each). Brain immunohistochemistry revealed positive staining for tachyzoites and tissue cysts using antiserum raised to T. gondii, but not S. neurona or N. caninum. T. gondii parasite DNA was obtained from extracts of brain and muscle by PCR amplification using the diagnostic B1 locus. Restriction enzyme digestion followed by gel electrophoresis and DNA sequencing confirmed the presence of Type X T. gondii, the strain identified in the majority of southern sea otter infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-18
Number of pages7
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 6 2008


  • Congenital brain malformation
  • Enhydra lutris
  • Genotype X
  • Sea otter
  • Toxoplasma gondii
  • Transplacental

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Parasitology
  • veterinary(all)


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