Identification of aMycoplasma ovis-like organism in a herd of farmed white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in rural Indiana

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Abstract

Mycoplasma ovis is a hemoplasma parasite of sheep, goats, and reindeer; however, natural hemoplasma infection in white-tailed deer has not previously been reported. Subsequent to finding many coccoid, bacillary, and ring-shaped organisms, consistent with hemotropic mycoplasmas, on RBCs from a 72-day-old female white-tailed fawn, we sought to (1) identify the putative hemoplasma observed in blood from the fawn, (2) evaluate others in the herd for hemoplasma infection, and (3) identify clinicopathologic characteristics of hemoplasma-infected white-tailed deer. EDTA-anticoagulated whole blood was collected from the fawn and 8 apparently healthy does in the same herd. CBCs were performed on 7 nonclotted samples from the fawn and 6 does. DNA was extracted from all samples, followed by PCR amplification of bacterial (16S rDNA) and protozoal (18S rDNA) genes. The nearly complete 16S rDNA product from the fawn's sample was directly sequenced and compared with known sequences in the GenBank database. Samples from the fawn and 7 of 8 does were PCR-positive using hemoplasma-specific and M ovis-specific protocols. The fawn was PCR-negative for Anaplasma spp., Babesia spp., and Theileria spp. The 16S rDNA sequence from the fawn (GenBank accession number, FJ824847) was most closely related to M ovis (AF338268), having 98.5% sequence identity. The fawn had a mild nonregenerative anemia, a neutrophilic left-shift with toxic change, aspiration bronchopneumonia, and gastrointestinal disease. Hematologic values, including blood film evaluation, in infected does were unremarkable. The M ovis-like organism may have acted as either an opportunistic or primary pathogen in the fawn. The high occurrence of subclinical infections in the does suggests that white-tailed deer may act as wildlife reservoirs for M ovis.

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