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Keywords:

  • Babesia ;
  • cervids;
  • PCR;
  • phylogeny;
  • piroplasm;
  • SSU rDNA

Abstract

A 5-year-old male neutered reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) from Missouri was presented with a 3-week history of anorexia, respiratory distress, lethargy, and weight loss. Blood smear review revealed that a small percentage of RBCs contained small (1–2 μm in length) pleomorphic piroplasms (signet ring, rod- or pear-shaped, and elongate forms) with an eccentric magenta nucleus and basophilic cytoplasm. Nested PCR to specifically amplify a portion of the piroplasm small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) gene was performed on DNA extracted from an EDTA specimen of whole blood. Subsequent sequence analyses showed similarity between the reindeer hemoparasite and Theileria spp SSU rRNA gene sequences in the GenBank database, with highest similarity to those of a Theileria sp in a White-tailed deer from North Texas (AY735132, AY735133). The reindeer and North Texas Theileria sp are genetically distinct from, albeit closely related to, the White-tailed deer Theileria sp (subsequently referred to as T cervi). To the authors' knowledge, this is the first identification of Theileria of this genotype in a reindeer. Historically, T tarandirangiferis infection was found with associated mortality in reindeer in Russia, but reports predate molecular characterization. Hence, the relationship of T tarandirangiferis with either T cervi or this agent remains unknown. T cervi is not typically pathogenic in White-tailed deer in the US unless the animal is immune-compromised by stress or disease; however, mortality from T cervi infection in reindeer has been reported.