Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite transmitted by domestic cats (Felis catus) that has historically caused mortality in native Hawaiian birds. To estimate how widespread exposure to the parasite is in nene (Hawaiian Geese, Branta sandvicensis), we did a serologic survey for T. gondii antibody and genetically characterized parasite DNA from the tissues of dead birds that had confirmed infections by immunohistochemistry. Of 94 geese sampled, prevalence on the island of Kauai, Maui, and Molokai was 21% (n=42), 23% (n=31), and 48% (n=21), respectively. Two new T. gondii genotypes (ToxoDB #261 and #262) were identified by PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism from four geese, and these appeared segregated geographically. Exposure to T. gondii in wild nene is widespread and, while the parasite is not a major cause of death, it could have sublethal or behavioral effects. How to translate such information to implement effective ways to manage feral cats in Hawaii poses challenges.
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Vol. 52 • No. 2