Molecular and biological characterization of Hammondia heydori-like oocysts from a dog fed hearts from naturally infected white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
Neospora caninum and Hammnondia heydorni are morphologically and phylogenetically related coccidians that are found in dogs. Although there is serological evidence of N. caninum infection in the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the parasite has not been yet isolated from the tissues of this host. In an attempt to isolate N. caninum from deer, hearts from 4 deer with antibodies to N. caninum were fed to 2 dogs. One of these dogs shed unsporulated oocysts 12-14 mum in diameter. Sporulated oocysts were not infective to Mongolian gerbils (Meriones ungulatus), and DNA isolated from these oocysts was not amplified using N. caninum-specific primers. However, positive amplification with the H. heydorni-specific first internal transcribed spacer (ITS-1) primers and common toxoplasmatiid ITS-1 primers confirmed the presence of H. heydorni DNA in the samples. The oocysts were considered to be H. heydorni on the basis of their morphology, biology, and molecular characteristics. This is the first record of a H. heydornilike parasite in the white-tailed deer.