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BACKGROUND: Understanding the distribution of disease in wildlife is key to predicting the impact of emerging zoonotic one health concerns, especially for wildlife species with extensive human and livestock interfaces. The widespread distribution and complex interactions of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) with humans suggest deer population health and management may have implications beyond stewardship of the animals. The intracranial abscessation suppurative meningitis (IASM) disease complex in deer has been linked to Arcanobacterium pyogenes, an under-diagnosed and often misdiagnosed organism considered commensal in domestic livestock but associated with serious disease in numerous species, including humans.METHODS: Our study used standard bacterial culture techniques to assess A. pyogenes prevalence among male deer sampled across six physiogeographic regions in Maryland and male and female deer in the Upper Eastern Shore under Traditional Deer Management (TDM) and Quality Deer Management (QDM), a management protocol that alters population demographics in favor of older male deer. Samples were collected from antler pedicles for males, the top of the head where pedicles would be if present for females, or the whole dorsal frontal area of the head for neonates. We collected nasal samples from all animals by swabbing the nasopharyngeal membranes. A gram stain and catalase test were conducted, and aerobic bacteria were identified to genus and species when possible. We evaluated the effect of region on whether deer carried A. pyogenes using Pearson's chi-square test with Yates' continuity correction. For the white-tailed deer management study, we tested whether site, age class and sex predisposed animals to carrying A. pyogenes using binary logistic regression.RESULTS: A. pyogenes was detected on deer in three of the six regions studied, and was common in only one region, the Upper Eastern Shore. In the Upper Eastern Shore, 45% and 66% of antler and nasal swabs from deer were positive for A. pyogenes, respectively. On the Upper Eastern Shore, prevalence of A. pyogenes cultured from deer did not differ between management areas, and was abundant among both sexes and across all age classes. No A. pyogenes was cultured from a small sample of neonates.CONCLUSION: Our study indicates A. pyogenes may be carried widely among white-tailed deer regardless of sex or age class, but we found no evidence the pathogen is acquired in utero. The distribution of A. pyogenes across regions and concentration in a region with low livestock levels suggests the potential for localized endemicity of the organism and the possibility that deer may serve as a maintenance reservoir for an emerging one health concern.
Turner, M. M., DePerno, C. S., Conner, M. C., Eyler, T. B., Lancia, R. A., Klaver, R. W., & Stoskopf, M. K. (2013). Habitat, wildlife, and one health: Arcanobacterium pyogenes in Maryland and Upper Eastern Shore white-tailed deer populations. Infection Ecology & Epidemiology, 3(1), 19175. https://doi.org/10.3402/iee.v3i0.19175