Seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in pinnipeds under human care and in wild pinnipeds
Toxoplasma gondii infection has been reported in numerous species of marine mammals, some of them with fatal consequences. A serosurvey for T. gondii infection was conducted in pinnipeds from an oceanographic park in Portugal (n = 60); stranded pinnipeds on the Portuguese coast (n = 10); and pinnipeds captured in Lorenzensplate, Germany (n = 99). Sera from 169 pinnipeds were tested for the presence of antibodies to T. gondii by the modified agglutination test with a cut-off titre of 25. An overall seroprevalence of 8.9% (95% confidence interval: 5.1-14.2) was observed. Antibody titres of 25, 50, 100, 1600 and ≥3200 were found in five (33.3%), two (13.3%), five (33.3%), one (6.7%) and two (13.3%) animals, respectively. Pinnipeds under human care had a seroprevalence of 20.0% (12/60), in contrast to 2.8% (3/109) in wild pinnipeds (p < 0.001). General results suggest a low exposure of wild pinnipeds to T. gondii, while the seroprevalence found in pinnipeds under human care highlights the importance of carrying out further studies. This is the first serological survey of T. gondii in pinnipeds in Portugal and the first infection report in South African fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus).