Parasitol Res. 2022 Sep 23. doi: 10.1007/s00436-022-07646-w. Online ahead of print.
Toxoplasma gondii seroprevalence was determined in meat juice samples of 820 free-living raccoons from Germany. The animals were collected between December 2017 and April 2021. Using a commercial enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), the overall seroprevalence was found to be 48.5%. Statistical analysis revealed significant seroprevalence differences between seasons, sex, and weight of analysed raccoons. The prevalence in late winter/spring (57.7%) was significantly higher than in autumn (38.4%) (p < 0.0003). Male raccoons (50.5%) were more often seropositive than females (41.0%) (p = 0.028). Increasing animal weight had a significant impact on the relative probability of a positive serostatus (odds ratio: 1.783, p < 0.0001). Furthermore, we found regional differences in seroprevalence, but there was no statistically significant difference resulting from animal age, degree of habitat urbanization and hunting year. Meat juice is a suitable medium for serological surveys for T. gondii in meat producing animals, as sampling is even possible after slaughter or during meat inspection when blood is no longer available. The observed high seroprevalence indicates that T. gondii infection is widespread among the German raccoon population providing a potentially relevant source of T. gondii transmission to humans upon consumption or handling of animal products.