(WFLA/CNN Newsource) – The Agricultural Department is no longer using kittens in parasite research.
The USDA had a research project where kittens were purposely infected with the toxoplasma gondii parasite.
That organism causes toxoplamosis, which officials call a leading cause of death from foodborne illness.
Kittens were used because the USDA said they are the only host in which the parasite can complete its lifecycle and produce eggs.
Last year, lawmakers introduced legislation to stop researchers from using kittens.
The USDA said it hasn’t infected a kitten since September and it has now permanently stopped the practice.
There are still more than a dozen kittens in the program and officials said USDA employees will be allowed to adopt them.