Researchers have issued a warning about a rare strain of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, which caused the death of four sea otters in California from toxoplasmosis. The concerning news is that this particular strain could potentially harm humans as well.
A previously unidentified variant of Toxoplasma gondii was investigated in California.
This week, the Frontiers in Marine Science journal published the results of a study carried out by researchers from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the University of California, Davis.
Between 2020 and 2022, a group of four sea otters was found stranded along the California coast.
According to a recent study, the cases of toxoplasmosis in otters were exceptionally severe, as an extensive amount of parasites were discovered throughout the creatures’ bodies except for their brains.
The potential public health risk posed by the strain contaminating the marine ecosystem is a major concern among researchers.
According to a report by UC Davis researchers, although the strain has yet to be found in humans, they still felt the need to alert the public about their discoveries.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has expressed the importance of spreading awareness about a parasite that can infect both humans and animals. Melissa Miller, a representative of the department, urges individuals to promptly identify cases of infection and take necessary precautions to avoid contracting the parasite.
Miller noted that since Toxoplasma has the ability to infect any warm-blooded creature, it poses the risk of causing illness in both humans and animals that coexist and share the same environment or food sources, such as raw or undercooked mussels, clams, oysters, and crabs.
After dedicating 25 years to the study of Toxoplasma infections in sea otters, Miller revealed that she had never come across such elevated parasite counts or severe lesions. Check out more information on Toxoplasma infections in sea otters here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 40 million individuals in the United States are infected with Toxoplasma parasite. Fortunately, their immune systems usually prevent the parasite from causing any adverse symptoms or illness. However, you can read here about how Florida red tide is causing fish to die, people to become sick, and events to be canceled.
To prevent contracting the parasite, the CDC advises cooking meat to appropriate internal temperatures and washing produce thoroughly.