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Outbreak of Philophthalmus gralli in four greater rheas (Rhea americana)


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M. L. Church
Tel.: 602-995-2871
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Using slit-lamp biomicroscopy, conjunctival biopsy, and morphological identification, a flock of four Greater rheas (Rhea americana) in Arizona were diagnosed with conjunctivitis secondary to Philophthalmus gralli (P. gralli) infection. Aquatic snails from the exhibit’s water source were identified as Melanoides tuberculatus, a known vector for P. gralli. Comparison of partial sequences of DNA regions from P. gralli adults removed from the rheas and metacercariae from the aquatic snails demonstrated a 100% match, confirming the source of infection. The flock was divided into two treatment groups: the most severely affected rheas received both manual removal of trematodes and praziquantel 1% ointment OU q12 h and the least severely affected rheas were only given praziquantel 1% ointment OU q12 h. The rheas were permanently relocated away from the infected water source and aquatic snails. Initial resolution was seen at 17 weeks in the most severely affected rhea, which had 675 adult P. gralli removed and topical praziquantel. The two rheas that only received topical praziquantel showed resolution within 3 and 15 weeks. Current recommendations for treating P. gralli include: manual removal of trematodes, topical praziquantel 1% ointment, and relocation away from infected water sources and aquatic snails.