The role of cats in toxoplasma gondii infection in Spain review

Oscar Cabezón, Javier Millán, Ignacio García-Bocanegra, Sonia Almería

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Toxoplasma gondii is a zoonotic intracellular protozoan parasite of worldwide distribution. The parasite is a main cause of abortion in small ruminants and humans when primary infection occurs during pregnancy. Felids, with particular importance of cats, are the definitive hosts, excreting oocysts in the faeces. Humans and virtually all warm-blooded species can be intermediate hosts and can become infected by ingestion of food and water contaminated with sporulated T. gondii oocysts, by consumption of tissue cysts in infected animal tissues, or congenitally. In the last decade, several studies of seroprevalence of T. gondii in numerous domestic and wild animal species (cats, dogs, pigs, wild felids, red deer and other cervids, wild boars, wild rabbits, wild birds and dolphins) have confirmed that T. gondii infection is widespread in Spain. Cats have a prominent role in the transmission of the infection. Recent studies in both domestic and wild cats from different areas of Spain have shown elevated seroprevalence levels, e.g: 45% of 220 domestic cats from Barcelona (Catalonia, North East Spain), and 32.3% of 585 domestic cats from Madrid and La Rioja (Central-North Spain). The highest seroprevalence has been observed in feral cats from Mallorca (Balearic Islands) (84.7% of 59 cats), being one of the highest reported worldwide in this species and the highest observed in Europe to date. High seroprevalence has also been observed in wild felids, such as Iberian lynx (81.5% of 27 animals, and 62.8% of 129 animals in two separate studies), and in European wildcats (50% of 6 animals). Furthermore, the presence of cats has been reported as one of the main factors for T. gondii seroprevalence in other domestic species, such as pigs and small ruminants in Spain. Seroprevalence levels in pregnant women in Spain have been reported to range from 18.8% in 2,929 pregnant women in Salamanca to 28.6% in 16,362 pregnant women in Barcelona. Since seropositive felids are likely to have already shed T. gondii oocysts in the environment, the high rate of T. gondii seroprevalence in cats can have important implications for conservation and animal infection and public health in Spain.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFelines
Subtitle of host publicationBehavior, Classification and Diseases
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)9781622570058
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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