National Reference Laboratory for Toxoplasmosis
Institute of Epidemiology
Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular protozoan parasite which is able to infect all warm- blooded vertebrates including mammals and birds.
Felids, e.g. domestic cats, are definitive hosts of T. gondii, and may excrete oocyst stages which are resistant to environmental influences and remain infectious for longer periods of time. Contaminations of food or drinking water with oocysts can cause infections of intermediate hosts (e.g. humans).
Up to one third of the human population is infected with T. gondii. Depending on the age group, up to two thirds of the German population have antibodies against the parasite. Most primary infections of humans are asymptomatic; some of the postnatally infected patients develop lymphadenopathy or ocular toxoplasmosis. Primary infection acquired during pregnancy may cause severe damage to the fetus. In immunosuppressed patients, reactivation of a latent infection can cause life-threatening encephalitis.
Human infections are mainly caused by consumption of raw or insufficiently cooked meat which contains live, encysted stages of T. gondii, or by ingestion of water or food contaminated with oocysts derived from the faeces of infected felids.
Toxoplasma gondii has a clonal population structure. In Northern America and Europe, mainly three clonal lines are found (lines I, II and III) which can be differentiated by means of genotyping procedures.
Overview of services
The tasks of the national reference laboratory for toxoplasmosis include:
- Contact for federal and state authorities on questions relating to the epidemiology and control of toxoplasmosis
- Confirmatory testing
- Supply of reference material
- Evaluation, standardization and further development of diagnostic methods
- Participation in the organization of international proficiency ring trials
- Participation in EU proficiency ring trials
- Training of laboratory staff in toxoplasmosis diagnostics
- Cooperation in workgroups and research projects
Overview of methods
- Genome detection by conventional and real-time PCR
- Strain characterization by PCR-RFLP
- Antibody detection by immunoblot, immunofluorescence test and ELISA
- Isolation of parasites in cell culture
- Reference sera
- Reference strains of T. gondii and related parasites
- Genotypical characterization of Toxoplasma gondii isolates
- Investigations on the virulence of Toxoplasma gondii isolates
- Further development of peptide-based serotyping procedures
- Investigations on the occurrence of Toxoplasma gondii in animals in Germany
- Regulation on other reportable animal diseases in its respective valid version