Understanding the role of disease in population regulation is important to the conservation of wildlife. We evaluated the prevalence of Toxoplasma gondii exposure and Sarcocystis spp. infection in 46 road-killed and accidentally trapper-killed fisher (Martes pennanti) carcasses collected and stored at -20 C by the Pennsylvania Game Commission from February 2002 to October 2008. Blood samples were assayed for T. gondii antibodies using the modified agglutination test (MAT, 1 : 25) and an indirect immunofluorescent antibody test (IFAT, 1 : 128). For genetic analysis, DNA samples were extracted from thoracic and pelvic limb skeletal muscle from each carcass to test for Sarcocystis spp. using 18s-rRNA PCR primers. Antibodies to T. gondii were found in 100% (38 of 38) of the fishers tested by MAT and in 71% (32 of 45) of the fishers tested by IFAT. PCR analysis revealed that 83% (38 of 46) of the fishers were positive for Sarcocystis spp. Sequence analysis of 7 randomly chosen amplicons revealed the fisher sarcocysts had a 98.3% to 99.1% identity to several avian Sarcocystis spp. sequences in GenBank. Data from our study suggest that a high percentage of fishers in Pennsylvania have been exposed to T. gondii and are infected with Sarcocystis spp.
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