Is the free-ranging jaguar (Panthera onca) a reservoir for Cytauxzoon felis in Brazil?
Cytauxzoon felis, a protozoan parasite of wild and domestic felids, is the causative agent of cytauxzoonosis in domestic and some exotic felids in the United States. The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is the natural reservoir for this parasite, but other felids such as Florida panthers (Puma concolor coryii) and domestic cats may maintain long-term parasitemias and serve as reservoirs. Experimentally, two tick species, Dermacentor variabilis and Amblyomma americanum, have demonstrated the ability to transmit C. felis. These two tick species have overlapping distributions throughout much of the southeastern United States. The objective of the current study was to determine the distribution and prevalence of C. felis in free-ranging bobcat populations from 13 states including California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia. These states were selected because of differential vector presence; D. variabilis is present in each of these states except for the region of Colorado sampled and A. americanum is currently known to be present only in a subset of these states. Blood or spleen samples from 696 bobcats were tested for C. felis infection by a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay which targeted the first ribosomal internal transcribed spacer region (ITS-1). Significantly higher prevalences of C. felis were detected from Missouri (79%, n=39), North Carolina (63%, n=8), Oklahoma (60%, n=20), South Carolina (57%, n=7), Kentucky (55%, n=74), Florida (44%, n=45), and Kansas (27%, n=41) compared with Georgia (9%, n=159), North Dakota (2.4%, n=124), Ohio (0%, n=19), West Virginia (0%, n=37), California (0%, n=26), and Colorado (0%, n=67). In addition to bobcats, seven cougars (Puma concolor) from Georgia, Louisiana, and North Dakota and one serval (Leptailurus serval) from Louisiana were tested for C. felis. Only one cougar from Louisiana was PCR positive, which represents the first report of an infected cougar outside of the Florida panther population. These data also indicate that C. felis is present in North Dakota where infection has not been reported in domestic cats. Based on a nonparametric analysis, prevalence rates were significantly higher in states where there are established populations of A. americanum, which supports recent data on the experimental transmission of C. felis by A. americanum and the fact that domestic cat clinical cases are temporally associated with A. americanum activity. Collectively, these data confirm that bobcats are a common reservoir for C. felis and that A. americanum is likely an epidemiologically important vector.