OAHN Small Ruminant Research Project: Development and validation of a new diagnostic test for Toxoplasma identification in small ruminant abortions
Project Lead: Dr. Maria Spinato
Collaborators: Dr. Hugh Cai
Growth in the sheep and goat industry necessitates better diagnostic testing to identify important production-limiting and zoonotic diseases. Rapid and accurate diagnostic testing such as PCR exists for bovines, but is not validated for use in small ruminants. New test methods and validation studies need to be developed to fill this gap. Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most common causes of abortion in sheep and goats, and is zoonotic (Hazlett et al. 2013). Currently, the AHL uses immunohistochemical testing to aid in diagnosing T. gondii infection. This test requires placenta or brain tissue and false negatives occur because tissue cysts are rare and not uniformly distributed (Dagleish et al. 2010). In cases for which placenta is not submitted or available, testing the fetus produces uniformly negative results. Real time PCR has a higher sensitivity for detecting protozoal infection, and would assist in diagnosing the etiologic agent of small ruminant abortion cases. The project will compare real time PCR with IHC, and use pathology as the gold standard to evaluate suitability of the test for use.