Parasitology 1

Research title:  


Tutor: Prof. Maria Teresa Manfredi


Contact details

Dipartimento di Medicina Veterinaria

Università degli Studi di Milano

via Celoria, 10 - 20133 Milano

tel. 02 503 18098

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State of the art  

Protozoan infections that affect ruminants, such as Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum, represent in a huge zootechnical problem. They can cause serious pathologies and production decrease; toxoplasmosis is also a zoonotic disease, with social and health consequences. Despite this, toxoplasmosis is considered to be under-detected and underreported in Europe; scarsely representative epidemiological data on T. gondii infections in humans, livestock and food are available in Lombardy and neither there are regularly adequate national plans of prophylaxis regarding this protozoan infection. Neospora caninum is worldwide recognized as one of the major abortive pathogens in cattle and cases of abortion are also registered in sheep and goats.

Bovine besnoitiosis is another important protozoan disease, emerging in Europe. Native of Sub-Saharan Africa, in Europe Besnoitia besnoiti is mostly spread in Spain, Portugal and France. Besnoitiosis is a disease in expansion both in number of cases of infection both in the distribution of the pathogen, also in Europe and Italy. In fact, Italy and Lombardy particularly import a huge amount of fattening cattle, mostly from France.

There is a  need of an exhaustive investigation on the protozoa infecting ruminants in Italy, to define whether new genotypes have been introduced and the associated zoonotic risks. An integrated approach combining serology with molecular techniques allows a multi-level comprehension of the epidemiology of T. gondii and a better characterization of the risk factors involved in human infection.


Aims of the project 

The research activity of the project will be focused on the evaluation of protozoal infections in ruminants by a combined approach of parasitological/serological and molecular methods. Among the zoonotic protozoa also affecting livestock we will focus on Toxoplasma gondii. The main aim of the project is the collection of epidemiological data on T. gondii genotypes, with particular regard to those occurring in sheep, goats and cattle bred or slaughtered in Northern Italy. Serological and molecular analysis for the detection of parasite DNA will be performed on organs of slaughtered animals. Further, having T. gondii strains different pathological effects on human health, genotyping will be carry out in order to obtain data on the effective risk posed by the consumption of infected products for consumers’ health. Particularly, in the course of the project muscle tissue (i.e. cardiac muscle) will be sampled since it represents ideal tissue for T. gondii DNA detection in the surveyed species. On muscle samples of animals resulted positive to serology, DNA extraction and PCR will be performed to detect T. gondii DNA.Further, on samples resulted positive to PCR, genotyping will be performed Regarding  neosporosis, the infection will be investigated using PCR and serological methods. In particular, N. caninum will be evaluated in aborted fetuses from seropositive cattle and the specimens will be genotyped in multilocus using  microsatellite markers previously described.

Finally, epidemiological data on bovine besnoitios will be collected through serology and PCR on target organs, aimed to molecularly characterize autochthonous isolates.



Recent publications of the tutor in the field 

1. Zanzani S.A., Di  Cerbo A.R., Gazzonis A.L., Epis S., Invernizzi A., Tagliabue S.,  Manfredi M.T..(2016). Parasitic and bacterial infections of Myocastor coypus in a metropolitan area of Northwestern Italy. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 52(1): 126–130

2. Gazzonis A.L.Alvarez Garcia G., Zanzani S.A., Ortega Mora L,  Invernizzi A., Manfredi M.T (2016).Neospora caninum infection in sheep and goats from north-eastern Italy and associated risk factors. Small Ruminant Research  140: 7-12.

3. Kinkar L., Laurimaë T., Simsek S., Balkaya I., Casulli A., Manfredi M.T., Ponce-Gordo F., Varcasia A., Lavikainen A., González L.M., Rehbein S., Van Der Giessen J., Sprong H., Saarma U. (2016). High-resolution phylogeography of zoonotic tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus sensu strict genotype 1 with an emphasis on its distribution in Turkey, Italy and Spain. Parasitology  143 (13): 1790-1801.

4. Gazzonis A.L., Veronesi F., Di Cerbo A.R., Zanzani S.A., Molineri G., Moretta I., Moretti A., Piergili Fioretti D., Invernizzi A., Manfredi M. T.. (2015) Toxoplasma gondii in small ruminants in Northern Italy – prevalence and risk factors. Annals of Agricultural and Environmental Medicine  22: 62–68.

5. Gazzonis A. L., Alvarez Garcia G., Zanzani S. A., Garippa G.,  Rossi L., Maggiora M., Dini V., Invernizzi A., Luini M., Tranquillo V. M., Ortega Mora L., Manfredi MT. (2014) Besnoitia besnoiti among cattle in insular and northwestern Italy: endemic infection or isolated outbreaks? Parasites and Vectors, 7: 585.