Babesia isolates from an elk (Cervus elaphus canadensis) and a caribou (Rangifer tarandus caribou) with fatal infections were compared to Babesia odocoilei (Engeling isolate) from white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) by experimental infection, serologic, and small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) gene sequence analysis studies. Both the indirect fluorescent antibody test and immunoprecipitation assays demonstrated antigenic variation among the isolates. Experimental infection studies showed no clinical differences among the isolates. Nucleotide sequence analysis showed that the elk and caribou Babesia sp. isolates possessed SSU rRNA genes with identical sequences to that of B. odocoilei. A phylogenetic tree constructed from SSU rRNA gene sequences shows that B. odocoilei is most closely related to Babesia divergens, both of which branch together in the true babesia clade.
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Vol. 36 • No. 3