Survival of Toxoplasma gondii oocysts Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica)
Toxoplasma gondii has recently been recognized to be widely prevalent in the marine environment. It has previously been determined that Eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) can remove sporulated T. gondii oocysts from seawater and that oocysts retain their infectivity for mice. This study examined the long-term survival of T gondii oocysts in oysters and examined how efficient oysters were at removing oocysts from seawater. Oysters in 76-L aquaria (15 oysters per aquarium) were exposed to 1 x 10(6) oocysts for 24 hr and examined at intervals up to 85 days postexposure (PE). Ninety percent (9 of 10) of these oysters were positive on day 1 PE using mouse bioassay. Tissue cysts were observed in I of 2 mice fed tissue from oysters exposed 21 days previously. Toxoplasma gondii antibodies were found in 2 of 3 mice fed oysters that had been exposed 85 days previously. In another study, groups of 10 oysters in 76-L aquaria were exposed to 1 x 10(5), 5 x 10(4), or 1 x 10(4) sporulated T. gondii oocysts for 24 hr and then processed for bioassay in mice. All oysters exposed to 1 x 10(5) oocysts were infected, and 60% of oysters exposed to 5 x 10(4) oocysts were positive when fed to mice. The studies with exposure to 1 x 10(4) oocysts were repeated twice, and 10 and 25% of oysters were positive when fed to mice. These studies indicate that T. gondii can survive for several months in oysters and that oysters can readily remove T. gondii oocysts from seawater. Infected filter feeders may serve as a source of T gondii for marine mammals and possibly humans.