Four wild African ruminants, eland (Taurotragus oryx), giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), kudu (Tragephalus strepsiceros strepsiceros), and blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), were experimentally infected with the rickettsia Cowdria ruminantium, the tickborne agent causing heartwater in domestic ruminants. The infections were established, and C. ruminantium was transmitted to naive small ruminants by the vector Amblyomma hebraeum when transmission attempts were made at days 128 (eland and wildebeest), 85 (giraffe), and 24 (kudu) post infection. These wild ruminants, which are natural hosts for the tick vector, and which commonly occur within heartwater-endemic areas of Africa, are likely to play important roles in the epidemiology of heartwater as reservoirs of C. ruminantium infection. These findings also demonstrate that considerable risks are associated with the translocation of wild ruminants from heartwater-endemic areas to heartwater-free areas such as the northern and southern American mainlands, which have large populations of susceptible domestic and wild ruminant hosts and tick species that are capable of transmitting the disease.
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Vol. 34 • No. 3