Theileria sp. (sable) infection commonly causes significant calf mortality in endangered roan antelopes (Hippotragus equinus). Schizont-induced leukocyte transformation and systemic immune dysregulation with associated cytopenias characterizes theileriosis in livestock. Data on related hematologic alterations are scarce in roan antelopes. The objective of this study was to investigate temporal changes in selected clinical parameters and hematologic measurands in experimentally infected (EI) roan calves. Six of eight calves developed theileriosis after inoculation with a Theileria sp. (sable)-infected tick stabilate. Consecutive measures of rectal temperature, lymph node size, white blood cell count (WBC), packed cell volume (PCV), hemoglobin concentration, differential leukocyte counts, leukocyte and erythrocyte morphology and percentage parasitemia were recorded. Data were compared with 15 age-matched PCR-negative control calves and nine older immune animals that had recovered from natural infection. Two non-pyrexic EI calves recovered uneventfully. Six pyrexic calves were treated, four of which died. Time to pyrexia and/or observation of schizonts and piroplasms was approximately two weeks. Total WBCs were unchanged post-infection (PI); neutrophils and typical monocytes decreased whereas typical lymphocytes (Ls) and atypical mononuclear leukocytes (AMLs), which were grouped together, increased. Parasitized and non-parasitized lymphocyte and AML (L/AML) size increased significantly PI. Piroplasms occurred intermittently at low frequencies («1 % of erythrocytes) after infection. Fatally infected calves were dehydrated, anemic, and icteric with hemorrhages and multi-organ infiltration by AMLs. The PCV and hemoglobin concentration increased PI, and platelet clumps were consistently observed. Experimental acute theileriosis in roan antelopes follows a similar pattern of disease progression to that in domestic livestock. Parasitized and non-parasitized AMLs are pivotal to the pathogenesis and require phenotypic characterization if we are to further our understanding of disease progression and severity in roan antelopes.
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