2022 journal article
DETECTION OF VECTOR-BORNE INFECTIONS IN LIONS AND TIGERS AT TWO ZOOS IN TENNESSEE AND OKLAHOMA, USA
JOURNAL OF ZOO AND WILDLIFE MEDICINE, 53(1), 50–59.
Protozoal and bacterial vector-borne infections are frequently diagnosed in domestic felids. However, with the exception of Mycoplasma haemofelis and Cytauxzoon felis, their occurrence in managed nondomestic felids housed in the United States is largely unknown. Following a case in February 2020 of fulminant cytauxzoonosis in an African lion (Panthera leo), EDTA-whole blood samples were collected opportunistically from February 2020 through June 2020 from 34 adult tigers (Panthera tigris) and eight adult African lions from the same sanctuary in eastern Tennessee as well as 14 adult tigers from a zoo in southern Oklahoma. Samples were analyzed for Cytauxzoon felis, Bartonella spp., hemotropic Mycoplasma, Rickettsia spp., Anaplasma spp., Ehrlichia spp., Babesia spp., and Hepatozoon spp. DNA by PCR amplification. All animals were asymptomatic at the time of collection. None of the Oklahoma animals were positive for vector-borne organisms, but these pathogens were detected in tigers at the Tennessee facility, including Cytauxzoon felis (11.8%), "Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum" (5.9%), and Ehrlichia ewingii (2.9%). During the study period, two animals developed clinical signs of cytauxzoonosis and were assessed for vector-borne infections as part of their diagnostic evaluation. This study documents the presence of tick-borne diseases in managed nondomestic felids in the southeastern United States and underscores that ectoparasite control measures should be practiced to minimize exposure of carnivores in managed care.