We have been collaborating since 1992 in studies on southern sea otters (Enhdyra lutris nereis) as part of a program to define factors, which may be responsible for limiting the growth of the southern sea otter population. We previously demonstrated Toxoplasma gondii in sea otters. We postulated that cat feces containing oocysts could be entering the marine environment through storm run-off or through municipal sewage since cat feces are often disposed down toilets by cat owners. The present study examined the sporulation of T. gondii oocysts in seawater and the survival of sporulated oocysts in seawater. Unsporulated oocysts were placed in 15 ppt artificial seawater, 32 ppt artificial seawater or 2% sulfuric acid (positive control) at 24 C in an incubator. Samples were examined daily for 3 days and development monitored by counting 100 oocysts from each sample. From 75 to 80% of the oocysts were sporulated by 3 days post-inoculation under all treatment conditions. Groups of 2 mice were fed 10,000 oocysts each from each of the 3 treatment groups. All inoculated mice developed toxoplasmosis indicating that oocysts were capable of sporulating in seawater. Survival of sporulated oocysts was examined by placing sporulated T. gondii oocysts in 15 ppt seawater at room temperature 22a??24 C (RT) or in a refrigerator kept at 4 C. Mice fed oocysts that had been stored at 4C or RT for 6 months became infected. These results indicate that T. gondii oocysts can sporulate and remain viable in seawater for several months.
Additional publication details
Sporulation and survival of Toxoplasma gondii oocysts in seawater