Saturday 20 August 2022

Young Pallas's cats often die of toxoplasmosis

Pallas's cat is a popular zoo species. They are endangered in Central Asia but they are fairly numerous in zoos where they are bred. They've encountered breeding success but the kittens frequently die from acute toxoplasmosis, an infection of the Toxoplasma gondii protozoan.

Group of Pallas's cat kittens
Bunch of Pallas's cat kittens. Photo:

A study entitled: 'Toxoplasmosis in Pallas' cats (Otocolobus manul) raised in captivity', reported that a breeding pair of Pallas's cats in Schönbrunn Zoo in Vienna, Austria produced 24 kittens between 1998 and 2002. Sadly 58% of the kittens died mostly of acute toxoplasmosis between the second and fourteenth week of their lives. The study was published online by Cambridge University Press on 21 October 2004. This problem has been known for a long time.

RELATED: Pallas’s cats at zoos infected with Toxoplasma gondii. This page discusses this topic in more detail.

They decided to develop a strategy to protect the cats from fatal toxoplasmosis. The shed T. gondii oocysts of one 12-week-old Pallas's kitten were bioassayed in mice. This means measuring the concentration of oocysts. Toxoplasma gondii was isolated in tissue culture inoculated (vaccinated) with tissues of the mice.

The researchers stated that the surviving kittens (presumable those that had not died of toxoplasmosis but were infected with the disease) were treated with clindamycin for 16 weeks. Clindamycin is an antibiotic. It fights bacteria in the body. Toxoplasmosis is a single celled protozoan parasite. But the antibiotic 'seroconverted' the infection. This means that the presence of the disease in the blood was eliminated i.e., a conversion from seropositive to seronegative.

"Clindamycin is indicated for Toxoplasma and Neospora infections although in human medicine sulfadiazine and pyrimethamine remain the drugs of choice for toxoplasmosis. Clindamycin is one of several suitable drugs for treating chronic rhinosinusitis in cats." - Science Direct.

Comment: there is a dramatically sad and uncomfortable backstory to the cute Pallas's cats that zoo visitors see. Are we okay with the fact that so many kittens die of toxoplasmosis and is the infection being controlled in 2022?

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