Prevalence of agglutinating antibodies to Toxoplasma gondii in adult and fetal mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) from Nebraska
Toxoplasma gondii is an apicomplexan parasite of mammals and birds. Herbivores acquire postnatal infection by ingesting oocysts from contaminated food or water. Toxoplasma gondii infection is common in white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus, but little is known about the prevalence of infection in mule deer, O. hemionus. We examined sera from 89 mule deer from Nebraska for agglutinating antibodies to T. gondii using the modified direct agglutination test (MAT) with formalin-fixed tachyzoites as antigen. Thirty-one (35%) of the samples were positive at dilutions of >= 1:25. Samples were examined from 29 fetuses from these mule deer and none were positive in the MAT. Sera from 14 white-tailed deer from Nebraska were also examined and 6 (43%) were positive for T. gondii. Samples were examined from 5 fetuses from these white-tailed deer and none was positive in the MAT. Our results in both deer species from Nebraska are similar to studies conducted in white-tailed deer from other regions of the United States. Our findings indicate that mule deer are frequently infected with T. gondii and that mule-deer meat may be a source of human infection.