Open Access
Volume 22, 2015
Article Number 17
Number of page(s) 4
Published online 20 May 2015

© L. Witkowski et al., published by EDP Sciences, 2015

Licence Creative CommonsThis is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii infects a wide range of mammal and avian species. Infection in humans may occur through the ingestion of uncooked or undercooked meat containing tissue cysts, through the ingestion of food or water contaminated by oocysts excreted in feline feces, and by mother-to-child transmission during pregnancy. T. gondii infection is common in many domesticated and wild animals used for food production and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has recommended the surveillance and monitoring of toxoplasmosis in humans, animals and foodstuffs. There are numerous surveys worldwide documenting the prevalence of T. gondii in food animals. Compared with domestic livestock species, little is known about T. gondii prevalence in wildlife, particularly in Poland [10, 12, 13, 21, 31].

The aim of the study was to assess the seroprevalence of T. gondii in carcasses of wild boar, red deer and roe deer intended for human consumption in Poland.

Materials and methods

The study was approved by the 3rd Local Commission for Ethics in Animal Experiments (Decision No. 44/2009). Wildlife animal population size was estimated on the basis of the results of monitoring carried out by the Polish Hunting Association in the 2009/2010 hunting season. Estimated population sizes of wild boars, roe deer and red deer were 250 000, 757 000 and 145 000 individuals, respectively. During this season, 197 000 wild boars, 162 000 roe deer, and 41 100 red deer were hunted [6]. A minimum sample size of 97 was determined for each animal species in order to estimate the prevalence with at least 10% precision at 50% expected prevalence and 95% level of confidence. The calculations were performed in EpiTools [30]. The 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) were calculated for prevalence using the Wilson score method [1]. According to Polish legal regulations, all carcasses of hunted animals are collected by several authorized companies. The animals were hunted in various regions, in 12 of 16 voivodships of Poland. The samples of meat from masseter tissue were obtained from carcasses accepted for human consumption collected in facilities belonging to two companies during hunting seasons 2009/2010 and 2010/2011. All samples were stored at −20 °C until testing. Thawed samples (approx. 1 g) were centrifuged and the meat juice was tested using a commercially available ELISA test (the multi-species ID Screen® Toxoplasmosis Indirect kit, IDvet, Montpellier, France) according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Results and discussion

T. gondii antibodies were detected in 24.1% (133/552) of red deer (95% CI: 20.7%, 27.8%), 37.6% (138/367) of wild boar (95% CI: 32.8%, 42.7%) and 30.4% (28/92) of roe deer (95% CI: 22.0%, 40.5%).

This is the first epidemiological report of T. gondii prevalence in red deer, roe deer and wild boars in Poland. These results show that T. gondii is widespread in game from Poland. The seroprevalence of T. gondii in wild boar in Poland (37.6%) is similar to recent data from Latvia (33%) [11] and Finland (33%) [19]. It is much higher compared to most European countries where it ranged from 6% to 25% [4, 5, 7, 9, 14, 23, 25, 26, 28]. Prevalence over 50% has been reported only twice in Europe [27, 34].

In addition, the prevalence of T. gondii in the Polish population of roe deer (30.4%) is relatively high compared to Italy (2.4%) [14] and Spain (14%) [24]. However, similar prevalence was described in Sweden (34%) [22] and even higher in France (46%) [8].

Little is known about prevalence of T. gondii in red deer in Europe. In the present study, 24.1% of investigated animals were positive. In other European studies, antibodies against T. gondii were found in 7.7% red deer in Norway [32], 15.6% in Spain [17] and 45% in the Czech Republic [3]; however no positive animals were found in Italy [14].

No attempt has been made to compare the results of this study with other worldwide reports because many factors could influence these results, e.g. variable densities of domestic cats and environmental oocyst contamination. Furthermore, age-related differences in seroprevalence have been reported in some studies [34]. There are also significant differences in numbers of investigated samples, e.g. a previous report from Poland described T. gondii in only three roe deer [31]. Moreover, publications differ in terms of samples tested and assays used. In the present study, like in many others [2, 5, 11, 27, 29], meat juice was used. Several methods have been proposed for the detection of antibodies to T. gondii and there is a wide range of serological assays available commercially. However, none is a gold standard [2, 16]. The modified agglutination test (MAT) has been most commonly employed but several ELISA kits have also been used previously to detect T. gondii antibodies. High agreement between MAT and ELISA has been documented in most investigated animal species and both tests are suitable for epidemiological studies [15, 18, 20, 33, 34].


To the authors’ best knowledge, this is the first epidemiological report of T. gondii prevalence in red deer, roe deer and wild boars in Poland. It shows that T. gondii is present in wildlife animal tissues in Poland and their consumption may be a potential source of infection for humans.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


The work was partially supported by a grant from the National Science Center in years 2010-2013 under research project No. N N308 131638.


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Cite this article as: Witkowski L, Czopowicz M, Nagy DA, Potarniche AV, Aoanei MA, Imomov N, Mickiewicz M, Welz M, Szaluś-Jordanow O & Kaba J: Seroprevalence of Toxoplasma gondii in wild boars, red deer and roe deer in Poland. Parasite, 2015, 22, 17.

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