Person:
Fernández Escobar, Mercedes

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First Name
Mercedes
Last Name
Fernández Escobar
Affiliation
Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Faculty / Institute
Veterinaria
Department
Sanidad Animal
Area
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UCM identifierORCIDScopus Author IDDialnet ID

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Toxoplasma gondii Genetic Diversity in Mediterranean Dolphins

2022-08-12, Fernández Escobar, Mercedes, Giorda, Federica, Mattioda, Virgina, Audino, Tania, Di Nocera, Fabio, Lucifora, Giuseppe, Varello, Katia, Grattarola, Carla, Ortega Mora, Luis Miguel, Casalone, Cristina, Calero Bernal, Rafael

Toxoplasma gondii constitutes a major zoonotic agent but also has been frequently identified as an important cause of clinical disease (e.g., abortion, pneumonia, encephalitis) in wildlife; specifically, T. gondii has been associated with neurological disease in cetaceans. This study investigated the genetic diversity of T. gondii strains involved in infections in dolphins found stranded in the Mediterranean coastlines of Italy. Tissue samples from 16 dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba and Tursiops truncatus species) positive for T. gondii-DNA presence by PCR were examined by histology and subjected to further genetic characterization of strains detected by PCR-RFLP and multilocus PCR-sequencing assays. According to fully genotyped samples, the genotypes ToxoDB#3 (67%) and #2 (22%) were detected, the latter being reported for the first time in cetaceans, along with a mixed infection (11%). Subtyping by PCR-seq procedures provided evidence of common point mutations in strains from southwestern Europe. Despite evidence of T. gondii as a cause of neurological disease in dolphins, sources of infections are difficult to identify since they are long-living animals and some species have vast migration areas with multiple chances of infection. Finally, the genetic diversity of T. gondii found in the dolphins studied in the Mediterranean coastlines of Italy reflects the main genotypes circulating inland in the European continent.

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Evidence for Unknown Sarcocystis-Like Infection in Stranded Striped Dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) from the Ligurian Sea, Italy

2021-04-22, Giorda, Federica, Romani Cremaschi, Umberto, Marsh, Antoinette E., Grattarola, Carla, Iulini, Barbara, Pautasso, Alessandra, Varello, Katia, Berio, Enrica, Gazzuola, Paola, Marsili, Letizia, Di Francesco, Cristina E., Goria, Maria, Verna, Federica, Audino, Tania, Peletto, Simone, Caramelli, Maria, Fernández Escobar, Mercedes, Sierra, Eva, Fernández, Antonio, Calero Bernal, Rafael, Casalone, Cristina

Two striped dolphins (SD1, SD2), stranded along the Ligurian coast of Italy, were diagnosed with a nonsuppurative meningoencephalitis associated with previously undescribed protozoan tissue cysts. As tissue cysts were morphologically different from those of Toxoplasma gondii, additional histopathological, immunohistochemical, ultrastructural, and biomolecular investigations were performed, aiming to fully characterize the organism. Histopathology revealed the presence of large Sarcocystis-like tissue cysts, associated with limited inflammatory lesions in all CNS areas studied. IHC was inconclusive, as positive staining with polyclonal antisera did not preclude cross-reaction with other Sarcocystidae coccidia. Applied to each animal, 11 different PCR protocols precluded a neural infection by Sarcocystis neurona, Sarcocystis falcatula, Hammondia hammondi, and Neospora caninum. T. gondii coinfection was confirmed only in dolphin SD2. Sarcocystis sp. sequences, showing the highest homology to species infecting the Bovidae family, were amplified from SD1 myocardium and SD2 skeletal muscle. The present study represents the first report of Sarcocystis-like tissue cysts in the brain of stranded cetaceans along with the first description of Sarcocystis sp. infection in muscle tissue of dolphins from the Mediterranean basin.