DAO 101:139-144 (2012)  -  doi:10.3354/dao02526

Disseminated toxoplasmosis in Antillean manatees Trichechus manatus manatus from Puerto Rico

Gregory D. Bossart1,2,*, Antonio A. Mignucci-Giannoni3, Antonio L. Rivera-Guzman3, Nilda M. Jimenez-Marrero4, Alvin C. Camus5, Robert K. Bonde6, Jitender P. Dubey7, John S. Reif8

1Georgia Aquarium, 225 Baker Street Northwest, Atlanta, Georgia 30313, USA
2Department of Pathology, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida 33136, USA
3Puerto Rico Manatee Conservation Center, Inter American University of Puerto Rico, San Juan 00936, Puerto Rico
4Bureau of Fish and Wildlife, Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, San Juan 00936, Puerto Rico
5Department of Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia 30602, USA
6US Geological Survey, Southeast Ecological Science Center, Sirenia Project, Gainesville, Florida 32653, USA
7US Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Natural Resources Institute, Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland 20705, USA
8Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado 80523, USA

ABSTRACT: Necropsies were conducted on 4 Antillean manatees Trichechus manatus manatus that were stranded in single events on the coastal beaches of Puerto Rico from August 2010 to August 2011. Three manatees were emaciated and the gastrointestinal tracts were devoid of digesta. Microscopically, all manatees had severe widespread inflammatory lesions of the gastrointestinal tract and heart with intralesional tachyzoites consistent with Toxoplasma gondii identified by histological, ultrastructural and immunohistochemical techniques. The gastrointestinal lesions included severe, multifocal to diffuse, chronic-active enteritis, colitis and/or gastritis often with associated ulceration, necrosis and hemorrhage. Enteric leiomyositis was severe and locally extensive in all cases and associated with the most frequently observed intralesional protozoans. Moderate to severe, multifocal, chronic to chronic-active, necrotizing myocarditis was also present in all cases. Additionally, less consistent inflammatory lesions occurred in the liver, lung and a mesenteric lymph node and were associated with fewer tachyzoites. Sera (n = 30) collected from free-ranging and captive Puerto Rican manatees and a rehabilitated/released Puerto Rican manatee from 2003 to 2012 were tested for antibodies for T. gondii. A positive T. gondii antibody titer was found in 2004 in 1 (3%) of the free-ranging cases tested. Disease caused by T. gondii is rare in manatees. This is the first report of toxoplasmosis in Antillean manatees from Puerto Rico. Additionally, these are the first reported cases of disseminated toxoplasmosis in any sirenian. The documentation of 4 cases of toxoplasmosis within one year and the extremely low seroprevalence to T. gondii suggest that toxoplasmosis may be an emerging disease in Antillean manatees from Puerto Rico.

KEY WORDS: Toxoplasma gondii · Sirenian · Gastroenteritis · Enterocolitis · Myocarditis · Emerging disease

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Cite this article as: Bossart GD, Mignucci-Giannoni AA, Rivera-Guzman AL, Jimenez-Marrero NM and others (2012) Disseminated toxoplasmosis in Antillean manatees Trichechus manatus manatus from Puerto Rico. Dis Aquat Org 101:139-144

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