In 2015, a previously unrecognized intracytoplasmic erythrocytic inclusion was discovered in anemic wild-caught adult gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus). Subsequently, molecular diagnostics revealed this inclusion to be a novel Anaplasma sp.
The goal of this study was to morphologically characterize these erythrocytic inclusions by light and transmission electron microscopy (TEM).
Blood samples were taken from two car-injured wild-caught gopher tortoises for the preparation of Wright-Giemsa stained smears and TEM specimens. CBC data were serially performed and morphologically examined during treatment periods.
Studies revealed a moderate to severe anemia with moderate regeneration as indicated by polychromasia and the presence of immature erythroid precursors. In addition, on light microscopy, one to two variably-sized round basophilic stippled paracentral erythrocytic inclusions were present per cell in both animals and involved 10%-25% of erythrocytes. TEM identified the intraerythrocytic inclusions as discrete membrane-bound cytoplasmic vacuoles (morulae) containing membrane-bound bacterial subunits that were of variable size, shape, and electron density. Serial hematologic data indicated complete remission of the infection in response to a single long-term course of doxycycline.
The presence of a regenerative anemia in gopher tortoises from Florida revealed a newly recognized bacterial species that has morphologic characteristics similar to members of the genus Anaplasma.

© 2020 American Society for Veterinary Clinical Pathology.