According to Health Canada, approximately four in ten people living in Northern Canada have been infected by the foodborne parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which is a much higher rate than is seen in Southern Canada.

The agency recently shone a light on T. gondii in an expert interview with Brent Dixon, Ph.D., Research Scientist at Health Canada. Although most people infected by T. gondii endure mild or no symptoms, immunocompromised people may experience severe or life-threatening neurological complications.

Recent research has estimated that one in ten people living in Southern Canada have been infected by T. gondii, which is much lower than the rate in Northern Canada, where four in ten people have experienced infection by the parasite. According to Dr. Dixon, the reason for this may be the diet of Northern communities, who often eat traditional foods such as organs from wildlife and raw, dried, or fermented meats. Since T. gondii is a zoonotic parasite that is prevalent in wildlife, communities that regularly consume wild meats may be more at risk of infection.

Health Canada is working with Indigenous partners, such as the Nunavik Research Centre, to share research expertise and refine T. gondii detection methods. Ongoing work aims to identify where the parasite is most likely to reside, to inform recommendations that reduce the risk of exposure for vulnerable populations.