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Evaluation of Cytauxzoon felis infection status in captive-born wild felids housed in an area endemic for the pathogen

Kristin M. LewisDepartment of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211.

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Leah A. CohnDepartment of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211.

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Megan E. DowneyDepartment of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

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Marlyn S. WhitneyDepartment of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO 65211.

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Adam J. BirkenheuerDepartment of Clinical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606.

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Abstract

Objective—To determine whether apparently healthy captive-born wild felids that were not native to North America and were housed in an area endemic for Cytauxzoon felis harbored the pathogen.

Design—Prospective observational case series.

Animals—11 captive-born wild felids that were (1 bobcat [Lynx rufus] and 1 cougar [Puma concolor]) or were not (1 lion [Panthera leo] and 8 tigers [Panthera tigris]) native to North America and 6 domestic cats (5 pets and 1 feral).

Procedures—Blood was collected, and a PCR assay for C felis was performed. The C felis 18S rRNA gene sequence was characterized in samples that tested positive. Blood smears were evaluated microscopically for intraerythrocytic organisms consistent with C felis. Blood smears from an additional 6 feral domestic cats found dead on the study premises were also evaluated.

Results—4 tigers and 6 domestic cats without clinical signs of disease tested positive for C felis infection via PCR assay; intraerythrocytic organisms consistent with C felis were identified in smears from 1 C felis—infected tiger (which also had azotemia) and in smears from 11 of 12 domestic cats. Possible erythrocytic inclusions were identified in 1 tiger that tested negative for C felis. Sequences of C felis 18S rRNA amplicons from all infected tigers shared > 99.8% identity with reported C felis sequences from North American domestic cats and were identical to amplicons from domestic cats on the premises.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Captive tigers without clinical signs of disease tested positive for C felis. The PCR assay for C felis appeared to be more reliable than cytologic detection of piroplasms in tigers.

Abstract

Objective—To determine whether apparently healthy captive-born wild felids that were not native to North America and were housed in an area endemic for Cytauxzoon felis harbored the pathogen.

Design—Prospective observational case series.

Animals—11 captive-born wild felids that were (1 bobcat [Lynx rufus] and 1 cougar [Puma concolor]) or were not (1 lion [Panthera leo] and 8 tigers [Panthera tigris]) native to North America and 6 domestic cats (5 pets and 1 feral).

Procedures—Blood was collected, and a PCR assay for C felis was performed. The C felis 18S rRNA gene sequence was characterized in samples that tested positive. Blood smears were evaluated microscopically for intraerythrocytic organisms consistent with C felis. Blood smears from an additional 6 feral domestic cats found dead on the study premises were also evaluated.

Results—4 tigers and 6 domestic cats without clinical signs of disease tested positive for C felis infection via PCR assay; intraerythrocytic organisms consistent with C felis were identified in smears from 1 C felis—infected tiger (which also had azotemia) and in smears from 11 of 12 domestic cats. Possible erythrocytic inclusions were identified in 1 tiger that tested negative for C felis. Sequences of C felis 18S rRNA amplicons from all infected tigers shared > 99.8% identity with reported C felis sequences from North American domestic cats and were identical to amplicons from domestic cats on the premises.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Captive tigers without clinical signs of disease tested positive for C felis. The PCR assay for C felis appeared to be more reliable than cytologic detection of piroplasms in tigers.

Contributor Notes

Supported by the University of Missouri and The ALSAM Foundation.

The authors thank Emily McCormick, Ronald Eby, Henry S. Marr, and Matt Haight for technical assistance.

Address correspondence to Dr. Cohn (cohnl@missouri.edu).