The University of Surrey is undertaking a study into the spread of Toxocara at allotment sites and has asked for our help.
Toxocara is a type of roundworm parasite, which lives in the digestive tract of foxes, dogs and cats. Once infected, animals will then shed Toxocara eggs in their faeces. The parasite doesn’t cause foxes, dogs or cats a great deal of harm and they often appear normal. When the parasite eggs are accidently consumed, either directly from the soil (e.g. children playing in dirt) or via unwashed vegetable produce, the larvae hatch out in the gut and migrate to various organs of the body. This can have disastrous consequences on people, including blindness, seizures and organ damage. Thankfully, if hands and vegetable produce are washed thoroughly, the eggs are removed and infection is avoided.
The study is investigating whether allotment-grown produce is contaminated with
Toxocara eggs. The aim is to find out whether eating unwashed vegetables could pose a risk of Toxocara transmission to humans.
The study involves obtaining samples of vegetable produce grown on allotment sites, so
that these materials can be analysed in the laboratory for the presence of Toxocara eggs.
Produce that can be consumed raw is of particular interest as cooking will generally kill the
eggs so the risk of human infection is lower.
The University will supply a container on site containing ziplock carrier bags, which samples will go into before being sealed. Within each donation bag will be a paper slip with a few short questions to complete. They would like to start as soon as possible and will empty the container every week until mid-July. All donations will be completely anonymous.
They expect to complete the study in September and share their results with us if we wish.
If you would like to help with the study and are growing vegetables such as lettuce, spring onion, spinach & rocket or anything else normally eaten raw, and would like more information contact please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org