Seroepidemiologic study on the prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii and Trichinella spp. infections in black bears (Ursus americanus) in Pennsylvania, USA

Jitender P. Dubey, Justin Brown, Mark Ternent, Shiv K. Verma, Dolores E. Hill, Camila K. Cerqueira-Cézar, Oliver C.H. Kwok, Rafael Calero-Bernal, Jan G. Humphreys

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14 Scopus citations


The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii and the metazoan Trichinella spp. infect virtually all warm-blooded animals, including birds, humans, livestock, and marine mammals. Both parasitic infections can cause serious illness in human beings and can be acquired by ingesting under-cooked meat harboring infective stages. Approximately 3500 black bears (Ursus americanus) are legally-harvested each year in Pennsylvania, USA during the November hunting season. Among animals found infected with T. gondii, the prevalence of T. gondii is the highest among black bears in the USA; however, little is currently known of epidemiology of toxoplasmosis in this host species. Serum samples were collected during the winters of 2015 and 2016 from adult female bears and their nursing cubs or yearlings while they were still in their dens. Additionally, archived sera from bear samples collected throughout the year, including hunter-harvested bears in November and trapped bears in the summer, were serologically tested. Antibodies to T. gondii were assayed by the modified agglutination test (MAT, cut-off 1:25) and antibodies to Trichinella spp. were assayed using a commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Overall, T. gondii antibodies were found in 87.6% (206/235) of adults, and 44.1% (30/68) of yearlings. In March 2015/2016 sampling, antibodies to T. gondii were found in 94% (30/32) adult female bears while in their den. Antibodies were detected in 5% (3/66) of the nursing cubs in the dens of these sows. One positive cub had a MAT titer of 1:160 and two were positive at the 1:25 dilution but not at 1:50. The adult females of these cubs had MAT titers ranging from 1:400 to 1:3200. Antibodies to Trichinella spp. were found in 3% (6/181) of adults and 3.6% (1/28) of yearlings; these 7 bears were also seropositive for T. gondii. No antibodies to Trichinella spp. were detected in the sera of 44 nursing cubs tested. The finding of T. gondii antibodies in only 3 of 66 cubs, and higher antibody titers in their respective sows indicates that the colostrally-acquired antibodies wane to undetectable levels by 8–10 weeks, while the cubs are still in the den. The results indicate that there is no transplacental transmission of T. gondii, that antibodies acquired from colostrum are largely undetectable by the time cubs emerge from the den, and nearly that 50% of bears acquire infection postnatally by 10 months of age. This is the first report of disappearance of transcolostral antibodies of any infection in bears.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-80
Number of pages5
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
StatePublished - 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • veterinary(all)


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