Toxoplasmosis: a One Health disease and a One Health approach to tackling it
Cats have been in the news lately. Our beloved feline friends, long since revered by the ancient Egyptians, have enjoyed a bond with humans as domesticated pets for centuries. However, cats (mainly feral cats who hunt and eat outdoors) play an important role in the spread of toxoplasmosis, a leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the United States.
A new study published in EcoHealth reviews the natural history of T. gondii, its transmission and impacts in humans, domestic animals, wildlife both terrestrial and aquatic, and ecosystems, with the objective of facilitating awareness of this disease and promoting transdisciplinary collaborations, integrative research, and capacity building among universities, government agencies, NGOs, policy makers, practicing physicians, veterinarians, and the general public. Toxoplasmosis demands integrative approaches breaching disciplinary boundaries. This integration is needed to generate new approaches to manage and control the disease. The One Health approach to toxoplasmosis epidemiology and control requires practical, sustainable, and effective solutions with a keen understanding of local socioeconomic and cultural factors as well as a solid grasp of complex local, regional, national, and international health and environmental policies.
Dr. A. Alonso Aguirre, professor and chair of environmental science and policy at George Mason University, says that the problem is two-fold: feral cats are the main reservoirs of the disease and major risk for infection; also the USDA recently closed their toxoplasmosis reference lab due to pressure from animal groups.
On April 2, the USDA made the decision to shut down a small research lab in Beltsville, Maryland after 37 years. The lab has been the world’s leading hub for scientists working on Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that infects more than 1 billion people globally, causing death, blindness, and birth defects. The lab fell victim to pressure from animal welfare activists and members of Congress concerned about its use of cats, the only animal in which T. gondii completes the sexual stages of its life cycle.
A press release by the American Bird Conservancy in Washington, DC was previously issued on May 1, 2019.
A write up from The Wildlife Society: https://wildlife.org/better-collaboration-needed-to-tackle-pervasive-cat-disease/
Scientific study: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10393-019-01405-7