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Trypanosoma cruzi is a protozoan parasite primarily transmitted by triatomine insects (Hemiptera: subfamily Reduviidae) and is the cause of Chagas disease (CD). This report describes three cases of CD in a mob of five slender-tailed meerkats (Suricata suricatta) living in an outdoor exhibit at one zoological institution in Texas. The index case was a 9.5-yr-old female that presented with ataxia, lethargy, and pleural effusion. This case was diagnosed with CD postmortem via cytology, T. cruzi PCR of whole blood and lung fluid, and histology. Blood was opportunistically collected from the remaining four meerkats 28 d after the death of the index case and tested by PCR and serology. The second case was a clinically normal 7.5-yr-old male that tested PCR and antibody positive and the third case was a clinically normal 9-yr-old female that tested PCR positive. The second animal presented depressed, with pneumonia, and with continuous shivering 53 d after blood collection, and clinically improved after treatment with antibiotics and supportive care. Fifteen days later, the animal was found minimally responsive and died shortly thereafter. Histologic examination revealed Trypanosoma sp. amastigotes in the myocardium and the tissue was positive for T. cruzi DNA. The third meerkat, which received two separate courses of benznidazole over a span of almost 2 yr, was monitored routinely by PCR and serology and appeared clinically normal until found dead on exhibit 93 d after completion of the second treatment. Myocardium was positive for T. cruzi DNA. To the authors' knowledge, this case series is the first to document Chagas disease in meerkats and features associated cytologic and histologic findings.


Marcela Valdés-Soto, Anne Burgdorf-Moisuk, Janis Raines, Maren Connolly, Kelly E Allen, Megan W Lineberry, Michael M Garner. TRYPANOSOMA CRUZI INFECTION IN THREE SLENDER-TAILED MEERKATS (SURICATA SURICATTA). Journal of zoo and wildlife medicine : official publication of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians. 2023 Jul;54(2):394-400

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PMID: 37428705

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