DAO prepress abstract  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/dao03181

Investigating sea grass in Toxoplasma gondii transmission in Florida (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and Antillean (T. m. manatus) manatees

Heidi M. Wyrosdick*, Richard Gerhold, Chunlei Su, Antonio A. Mignucci-Giannoni, Robert K. Bonde, Alycia Chapman, Carla I. Rivera-PĂ©rez, Jessica Martinez, Debra L. Miller

*Email: hwyrosdi@utk.edu

ABSTRACT: Toxoplasma gondii is a feline protozoan reported to cause morbidity and mortality in manatees and other marine mammals. Given their herbivorous nature, ingestion of oocysts from contaminated water or seagrass is presumed to be the primary mode of infection for manatees. The objectives of this study were to investigate oocyst contamination of seagrass beds in Puerto Rico and determine the seroprevalence of T. gondii in Antillean (Trichechus manatus manatus) and Florida (T. m. latirostris) manatees. Sera or plasma from Antillean (n=5) and Florida (n=351) manatees were tested for T. gondii antibodies using the modified agglutination test (MAT). No T. gondii DNA was detected via PCR in seagrass samples (n=33) collected from Puerto Rico. Seroprevalence was 0%, suggesting a lower prevalence of T. gondii in these manatee populations than previously reported. This was the first study to investigate the oocyst contamination of the manatee diet and similar studies are important to understanding the epidemiology of T. gondii to herbivorous marine mammals.