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A hotspot of Toxoplasma gondii Africa 1 lineage in Benin: How new genotypes from West Africa contribute to understand the parasite genetic diversity worldwide

Abstract : Through international trades, Europe, Africa and South America share a long history of exchanges, potentially of pathogens. We used the worldwide parasite Toxoplasma gondii to test the hypothesis of a historical influence on pathogen genetic diversity in Benin, a West African country with a longstanding sea trade history. In Africa, T . gondii spatial structure is still non-uniformly studied and very few articles have reported strain genetic diversity in fauna and clinical forms of human toxoplasmosis so far, even in African diaspora. Sera from 758 domestic animals (mainly poultry) in two coastal areas (Cotonou and Ouidah) and two inland areas (Parakou and Natitingou) were tested for T . gondii antibodies using a Modified Agglutination Test (MAT). The hearts and brains of 69 seropositive animals were collected for parasite isolation in a mouse bioassay. Forty-five strains were obtained and 39 genotypes could be described via 15-microsatellite genotyping, with a predominance of the autochthonous African lineage Africa 1 (36/39). The remaining genotypes were Africa 4 variant TUB2 (1/39) and two identical isolates (clone) of Type III (2/39). No difference in terms of genotype distribution between inland and coastal sampling sites was found. In particular, contrarily to what has been described in Senegal, no type II (mostly present in Europe) was isolated in poultry from coastal cities. This result seems to refute a possible role of European maritime trade in Benin despite it was one of the most important hubs during the slave trade period. However, the presence of the Africa 1 genotype in Brazil, predominant in Benin, and genetic analyses suggest that the triangular trade was a route for the intercontinental dissemination of genetic strains from Africa to South America. This supports the possibility of contamination in humans and animals with potentially imported virulent strains. Author summary: The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is a worldwide-distributed pathogen, able to infect all warm-blooded animals. There are important differences in the clinical expression of the infection in direct relation with the parasite genetic profile. In some regions, the geographical structuration of its genetic diversity points towards a crucial role of human activities in some lineages introduction or sorting. Benin is a West African country with a history of extensive transcontinental exchanges. Our genetic study of Toxoplasma in Benin shows a surprisingly homogeneous and autochthonous diversity, which contrasts with previous studies from other West and Central African countries. In Benin, the absence of European Toxoplasma lineages may be explained by the extreme rarity of the house mouse (Mus musculus), a host species that was previously described as highly susceptible to the mouse-virulent African strains. Might Benin be the origin region for the Africa 1 lineage, our results suggest that Guinean Gulf coasts may be a starting point of this lineage towards South America, especially Brazil, during the slave trade. As a whole, the present study provides further insights into the recent evolutionary history of Toxoplasma gondii and its consequences on human and animal health.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-03231847
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Submitted on : Friday, May 21, 2021 - 11:05:39 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, June 2, 2021 - 4:26:15 PM

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Azra Hamidović, Jonas Raoul Etougbétché, Arétas Babatounde Nounnagnon Tonouhewa, Lokman Galal, Gauthier Dobigny, et al.. A hotspot of Toxoplasma gondii Africa 1 lineage in Benin: How new genotypes from West Africa contribute to understand the parasite genetic diversity worldwide. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Public Library of Science, 2021, 15 (2), pp.e0008980. ⟨10.1371/journal.pntd.0008980⟩. ⟨hal-03231847⟩

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