Trypanosoma cruzi is a zoonotic parasite endemic in the southern US and the Americas, which may frequently infect dogs, but limited information is available about infections in cats. We surveyed a convenience sample of 284 shelter cats from Southern Louisiana to evaluate T. cruzi infection using serological and PCR tests. Parasites from PCR positive cats were also genotyped by PCR and deep sequencing to assess their genetic diversity. We detected a seropositivity rate for T. cruzi of at least 7.3% (17/234), and 24.6% of cats (70/284) were PCR positive for the parasite. Seropositivity increased with cat age (R2 = 0.91, P = 0.011), corresponding to an incidence of 7.2% ± 1.3 per year, while PCR positivity decreased with age (R2 = 0.93, P = 0.007). Cats were predominantly infected with parasites from TcI and TcVI DTUs, and to a lesser extent from TcIV and TcV DTUs, in agreement with the circulation of these parasite DTUs in local transmission cycles. These results indicate that veterinarians should have a greater awareness of T. cruzi infection in pets and that it would be important to better evaluate the risk for spillover infections in humans.
Keywords: Cat; Chagas disease; Discrete typing units; Genotyping; Phylogeny; Transmission cycle.