Jonas EtougbétchéUniversité d’Abomey-Calavi, Benin
Title: Molecular prevalence, genetic characterization and patterns of Toxoplasma gondii infection in domestic small mammals from Cotonou, Benin
Toxoplasmosis, one of the most prevalent parasitic infections in humans and animals, is caused by the intracellular protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Small mammals play a key role as intermediate reservoir hosts in the maintenance of the T. gondii life cycle. In this study, we estimated the molecular prevalence and provide genetic diversity data for T. gondii in 632 small mammals sampled in four areas of Cotonou city, Benin. Both the brain and heart of each individual were screened through T. gondii-targeting qPCR, and positive samples were then genotyped using a set of 15 T. gondii-specific microsatellites. Prevalence data were statistically analyzed in order to assess the relative impact of individual host characteristics, spatial distribution, composition of small mammal community, and urban landscape features. An overall T. gondii molecular prevalence of 15.2% was found and seven genotypes, all belonging to the Africa 1 lineage, could be retrieved from the invasive black rat Rattus rattus and the native African giant shrew Crocidura olivieri. Statistical analyses did not suggest any significant influence of the environmental parameters used in this study. Rather, depending on the local context, T. gondii prevalence appeared to be associated either with black rat, shrew, or mouse abundance or with the trapping period. Overall, our results highlight the intricate relationships between biotic and abiotic factors involved in T. gondii epidemiology and suggest that R. rattus and C. olivieri are two competent reservoirs for the Africa 1 lineage, a widespread lineage in tropical Africa and the predominant lineage in Benin.