Submitted to: Journal of Wildlife Diseases
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/15/2005
Publication Date: 12/15/2005
Citation: Schoelkopf, L., Hutchinson, C.E., Bendele, K.G., Goff, W.L., Willette, M., Rasmussen, J.M., Holman, P.J. 2005. New ruminant hosts and wider geographic range identified for babesia odocoilei (emerson and wright 1970). Journal of Wildlife Diseases. 41(4):683-690 Interpretive Summary: Babesia odocoiliei is a tick-transmitted parasite causing disease in a number of wildlife species. Previously, the infection was considered limited to wild cervids (deer, elk, reindeer) in the midwestern portion of the United States. However, the results of this study demonstrate that bighorn sheep from the western United States and musk oxen from northeastern United States are naturally infected. This expands both the number of susceptible species and geographic range for this parasite, and suggests that wildlife managers in these areas consider this infection when addressing herd health issues.
Technical Abstract: Babesia odocoilei was found to infect two previously unknown host species, desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) and musk oxen (Ovibos moschatus), both members of the family Bovidae. Previously. B. odocoilei has been reported in only Cervidae hosts. New geographic regions where B. odocoilei infections have not been previously reported included Pennsylvania and New York, where fatal babesiosis occurred in reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) ; New Hampshire, where elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) were affected; and California, home of the infected desert bighorn sheep. Babesia odocoilei infections in these hosts were confirmed by parasite SSU rRNA gene sequence analysis. A serosurvey for B. odocoilei antibody activity in New Hampshire showed prevalence rates of 100% at two elk farms and 11.5% at another farm. Control of potential vector ticks, Ixodes scapularis, especially when translocating livestock, is imperative to prevent outbreaks of babesiosis in managed herds of potential host species.