U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife 15 (2021) 153–157



U.S. government work


Toxoplasma gondii is an important zoonotic protozoan parasite that can infect all warm-blooded animals including mammals and birds. Raptors can be intermediate hosts for T. gondii and the infection may be dependent on their feeding habits. In this study, we investigated the seroprevalence of T. gondii in ten raptor species from Florida, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee followed by a parasite bioassay on select seropositive samples. From a total of 155 raptors, we detected T. gondii antibodies using a modified agglutination test (cutoff 1:25) in 32 (20.6%) birds. The T. gondii seroprevalence was 44.8% in Falconiformes (13/29), 75% in Strigiformes (15/20), and 3.8% in Ciconiiformes (4/106). All Ciconiiformes samples (hearts and sera) were collected from Pennsylvania during nuisance wildlife removal projects and all birds were apparently healthy. Falconiform and Strigiform samples were collected from an exotics clinic in Tennessee and a rehabilitation center in Florida. All sampled birds were dead or euthanatized due to failure of rehabilitation or treatment. There was no statistically significant difference in T. gondii seroprevalence between Tennessee and Florida in the tested raptors. There was also no statistically significant difference in T. gondii exposure between males and females or adults and subadults. Mice bioassay attempts using fresh brain and/or heart tissue were performed on four seropositive birds. We isolated viable T. gondii tachyzoites from one red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) and genotyped the isolate using polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism (PCR-RFLP) of ten genetic markers. The isolated strain was designated as TgHawkFL1, which is ToxoDB PCR-RFLP genotype #28. Further research is needed to investigate the prevalence of T. gondii in raptors in the United States to obtain a better understanding of the life cycle, wildlife population impacts, and transmission dynamics of the parasite.