Pathogen prevalence in a highly vulnerable population of African lions in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve, Botswana
McDermid, Kimberly Ruth
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African lion (Panthera leo) numbers are decreasing and populations are becoming smaller and fragmented. Diseases are one reason for declines and low density populations are particularly vulnerable to disease epidemics. This study focused on viral and hemoparasite prevalence and characterization in a threatened lion population in Botswana. Blood and serum samples were collected on 50% of the adult/sub-adult lions in the Northern Tuli Game Reserve. Serology results revealed low antibody prevalence for feline panleukopenia (7%), calicivirus (15%) and canine distemper virus (15%). Higher prevalence occurred for feline immunodeficiency virus (76%) and herpesvirus (84%). All lions were seronegative for feline coronavirus and PCR-negative for Trypanosoma spp. Reverse line blot testing for Anaplasma, Theileria and Ehrlichia were negative; however, all lions tested positive for Babesia. Cloning and sequencing of amplicons from four lions revealed four Babesia spp. including variants of B. felis, B. lengau, B. canis vogeli and a Babesia sp. which likely represents a novel species most similar to B. microti.