The consumption of Toxoplasma gondii oocysts on fresh produce may be a means of its transmission to humans. Cats shed T. gondii oocysts, which contaminate produce directly or contaminate water sources for agricultural irrigation and pesticide and fertilizer applications. Cyclospora cayetanensis is a related coccidial parasite, and outbreaks of diarrhea caused by C. cayetanensis have been associated with the ingestion of contaminated raspberries. The oocysts of these coccidians are similar in size and shape, indicating that they may attach to and be retained on produce in a similar manner. In the present study the attachment and survival of T. gondii oocysts on 2 structurally different types of berries were examined. Raspberries and blueberries were inoculated individually with 1.0 × 101 to 2.0 × 104 oocysts of sporulated T. gondii. Berries inoculated with 2.0 × 104 oocysts were stored at 4 C for up to 8 wk. Oocyst viability and recovery were analyzed by feeding processed material to mice. Mice fed T. gondii–inoculated berries stored at 4 C for 8 wk developed acute infections. In other experiments mice fed raspberries inoculated with ≥1.0 × 101 oocysts became infected, whereas only mice fed blueberries inoculated with ≥1.0 × 103 oocysts became infected. This study demonstrates that T. gondii oocysts can adhere to berries and can be recovered by bioassays in mice and that raspberries retain more inoculated oocysts than do blueberries. The results suggest that T. gondii may serve as a model for C. cayetanensis in food safety studies.
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