Trypanosoma cruzi-associated megaesophagus was diagnosed in a domestic Louisiana-born llama with no significant travel history. The llama resided in the same rural area of greater New Orleans, Louisiana, where the first human autochthonous case of Chagas disease was identified in the state. Venous blood from the llama tested positive for T. cruzi kinetoplastid DNA by conventional PCR. The cardiac evaluation was unremarkable, while thoracic radiographs revealed generalized megaesophagus. The llama received supportive care, but was ultimately humanely euthanized. The esophagus was severely distended throughout its length on necropsy, and histologic evaluation showed no microscopic changes in esophageal tissue and minimal to mild lymphoplasmacytic inflammation in cardiac tissue. T. cruzi DNA was detected by conventional PCR in the esophagus, small intestine, and blood despite no protozoan organisms being observed in multiple tissue sections examined. This report contributes to the growing body of evidence of local transmission of T. cruzi in the southern United States, and Chagas disease should be considered a differential diagnosis when evaluating llamas and other large animal species for esophageal dysfunction. There is little research describing megaesophagus or Chagas disease in llamas, and this report aims to increase awareness about this zoonotic disease that is becoming more frequently reported in the southern United States.
Keywords: Chagas disease; Trypanosoma cruzi; autochthonous Chagas case; esophageal dilatation; llama; megaesophagus.