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Evaluation of haemoparasite and Sarcocystis infections in Australian wild deer

Huaman, J.L., Pacioni, C., Forsyth, D.M., Pople, A., Hampton, J.O., Helbig, K.J. and Carvalho, T.G. (2021) Evaluation of haemoparasite and Sarcocystis infections in Australian wild deer. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife, 15 . pp. 262-269.

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Wild animals are natural reservoir hosts for a variety of pathogens that can be transmitted to other wildlife, livestock, other domestic animals, and humans. Wild deer (family Cervidae) in Europe, Asia, and North and South America have been reported to be infected with gastrointestinal and vector-borne parasites. In Australia, wild deer populations have expanded considerably in recent years, yet there is little information regarding which pathogens are present and whether these pathogens pose biosecurity threats to humans, wildlife, livestock, or other domestic animals. To address this knowledge gap, PCR-based screening for five parasitic genera was conducted in blood samples (n = 243) sourced from chital deer (Axis axis), fallow deer (Dama dama), rusa deer (Rusa timorensis) and sambar deer (Rusa unicolor) sampled in eastern Australia. These blood samples were tested for the presence of DNA from Plasmodium spp., Trypanosoma spp., Babesia spp., Theileria spp. and Sarcocystis spp. Further, the presence of antibodies against Babesia bovis was investigated in serum samples (n = 105) by immunofluorescence. In this study, neither parasite DNA nor antibodies were detected for any of the five genera investigated. These results indicate that wild deer are not currently host reservoirs for Plasmodium, Trypanosoma, Babesia, Theileria or Sarcocystis parasites in eastern Australia. We conclude that in eastern Australia, wild deer do not currently play a significant role in the transmission of these parasites. This survey represents the first large-scale molecular study of its type in Australian wild deer and provides important baseline information about the parasitic infection status of these animals. The expanding populations of wild deer throughout Australia warrant similar surveys in other parts of the country and surveillance efforts to continually assess the level of threat wild deer could pose to humans, wildlife, livestock and other domestic animals.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Environmental and Conservation Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier Limited
Copyright: © 2021 The Authors.
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