Toxoplasma gondii found in British bats

Monday 7 April 2014

Salford researchers have discovered that some British bats are infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite which causes toxoplasmosis and miscarriage in pregnant women.

British bats are a protected species and potentially vulnerable to decline due to their life cycles, ecology and human intervention. A team at Salford, including previous PhD students Dr Nicole Dodd and Dr Jennie Lord, and principal investigators Professor Geoff Hide, Dr Darren Brooks and Dr Robert Jehle, have demonstrated, for the first time, the occurrence of the parasite Toxoplasma gondii in 10.4% of British pipistrelle bats.

Infection in bats is puzzling because this parasite, responsible for miscarriage in pregnant women and sheep, is actually known to parasitise cats. It is not known how the bats become infected or whether they suffer ill effects. However, it raises questions about the role of the parasite in bat decline and the potential for bats to spread infection.

Dodd NS, Lord JS, Jehle R, Parker S, Parker F, Brooks DR, Hide G. Toxoplasma Gondii: Prevalence in Species and Genotypes of British Bats (Pipistrellus Pipistrellus and P. Pygmaeus). Experimental Parasitology, 2014, 139: 6-11.