Health monitoring of spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) in the Serengeti ecosystem, Tanzania, revealed Hepatozoon infection in all of 11 immature individuals examined following death from natural causes. Hepatozoon infection was probably an important factor contributing to mortality in two cases that exhibited clinical signs of ataxia, lethargy, ocular discharge, retching, and labored breathing before death. Whether Hepatozoon infection contributed to six deaths from fire, probable lion predation and unknown causes could not be determined. Four deaths from infanticide and starvation were unlikely to be associated with Hepatozoon infection. Histologic examination revealed lung tissue infected with cyst-like structures containing protozoan stages in all eight cases examined and interstitial pneumonia in most cases. Systemic spread of infection to several organs was found in three cases. Alignment of a 426 bp sequence from the parasite's 18s rRNA gene revealed a Hepatozoon species identical to that recently described from two domestic cats in Spain and only 7 bp substitutions when a 853 bp sequence was aligned to this cat Hepatozoon species. Previous reports of infection of wild carnivores in eastern and southern Africa with an unspecified Hepatozoon species similar in appearance to H. canis may have involved the species described in this study.
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Vol. 44 • No. 1