Two captive reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) at a New York zoological institution were diagnosed with Babesia odocoilei. Clinical signs consistent with acute babesiosis included fever, hemoglobinuria, and hemolytic anemia. Both episodes were precipitated by stressful events that may have compromised their immunocompetence. The diagnosis was confirmed by visualization of intraerythrocytic parasites on stained blood smears, polymerase chain reaction, and speciation of the Babesia by sequencing a hypervariable region of the 18S rRNA gene. One reindeer died with gross and histopathologic lesions, including pigmentary nephrosis with severe acute tubular degeneration and necrosis secondary to intravascular hemolysis. A second reindeer was successfully treated with supportive care and an antiprotozoal, imidocarb dipropionate (Imizol, 12%, Schering-Plough Animal Health, Union, New Jersey 07083, USA) at 3 mg/kg s.c. or i.m. s.i.d. on days 1, 2, 6, 9, and 21. Two other reindeer in the exhibit tested negative for Babesia by polymerase chain reaction but were treated with imidocarb dipropionate as prophylaxis while final testing results were pending. Additionally, B. odocoilei was identified in three novel asymptomatic host species within the collection: yak (Bos grunniens), muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi), and markhor goat (Capra falconeri). Due to the high morbidity and mortality associated with acute babesiosis, captive reindeer should receive tick prevention, be tested for subclinical infections in endemic areas, and receive aggressive treatment for acute infections when clinical babesiosis is suspected.
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Vol. 40 • No. 1