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The identification of a genetically unique piroplasma in North American river otters (Lontra canadensis)
During a routine health check of a wild-caught North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) small piroplasms were noted within erythrocytes. Analyses of the 18S ribosomal ribonucleic acid (rRNA) gene sequences determined that this was a genetically unique organism most closely related to Babesia microti-like parasites found in other small carnivores. Subsequently 39 wild-trapped North American river otters from North Carolina were tested for the presence of piroplasma deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) via polymerase chain reaction and piroplasma DNA was detected in 82% (32/39) of these samples. Sequencing of partial 18S rRNA genes from selected cases determined that they were identical to the sentinel case. This report documents the existence of a genetically unique piroplasma in North American river otters and indicates that the prevalence of piroplasma in North Carolina otters is quite high. The pathogenic potential of this organism for otters or other species remains unknown. © 2007 Cambridge University Press.
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