Sera collected from 299 white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) harvested in New York State by hunters in November 2010 were assayed for anti-Toxoplasma gondii IgG antibodies. White-tailed deer are a useful sentinel for risk of human and domestic animal exposure to Toxoplasma oocysts and pose a potential risk for infection to humans and other animals by ingestion of the meat. White-tailed deer share grazing space with domestic animals raised for meat and are likely to be exposed by horizontal transmission through oocyst consumption, similar to other grazing species of economic concern. Overall, 42.2% of samples were positive by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, indicating a true prevalence of 38.5%, with a significantly higher proportion of adult than immature deer antibody positive. No significant difference in prevalence was found between male and female deer nor was there a significant effect of local human population density on deer antibody prevalence. These results provide insight into the risk of environmental Toxoplasma exposure in New York State and support horizontal transmission through oocyst consumption as the most common mechanism of white-tailed deer infection.
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Vol. 49 • No. 4