Merogonic stages of Theileria cervi in mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)

J Vet Diagn Invest. 2013 Sep;25(5):662-5. doi: 10.1177/1040638713501173.


In February 2012, 12 farmed mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) were moved from a facility in southwestern Oklahoma to a facility in southeastern Oklahoma that housed 100 farmed white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Between the third and fifth weeks, 9 of the 12 mule deer had died, 4 of which were submitted for necropsy. The deer were heavily infested with Amblyomma americanum (lone star ticks). Hematologic data from 1 deer revealed severe anemia, leukocytosis, and intraerythrocytic hemoparasites consistent with Theileria spp. Microscopically, the liver, lymph nodes, and spleen contained multifocally distributed, enlarged monocytic cells whose cytoplasm was replaced by developing meronts in various stages of merogony. It appears that, upon arrival, the Theileria cervi-naïve mule deer became infested with large numbers of Theileria-infected lone star ticks leading to massive exposure of the mule deer to sporozoites of the protozoan, resulting in an acute hemolytic crisis and fatalities. The merogonic stages of T. cervi are also described. The lack of earlier reports of merogony may be due to the fact that only a single, short-lived, merogonic cycle follows exposure to sporozoites and thus merogonic stages are demonstrable for only a short period. Polymerase chain reaction testing of paraffin-embedded tissue yielded a 507-bp amplicon sequence that was 100% identical with the sequence of T. cervi previously reported from white-tailed deer in Oklahoma and from elk in Wisconsin and Indiana.

Keywords: Amblyomma americanum; Theileria cervi; intravascular hemolysis; merogony; mule deer.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA, Protozoan / chemistry
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Deer / parasitology*
  • Disease Outbreaks / veterinary*
  • Histocytochemistry / veterinary
  • Oklahoma / epidemiology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / veterinary
  • Theileria / genetics
  • Theileria / isolation & purification*
  • Theileriasis / epidemiology
  • Theileriasis / parasitology*
  • Theileriasis / transmission
  • Ticks / parasitology*


  • DNA, Protozoan