A new protozoan parasite found in a Finnish roe deer
Besnoitia tarandi has previously been found in Finnish and other European reindeer. The protozoan does not normally impair the quality of reindeer meat.
The routes of transmission of the parasite are unknown, but it is assumed that the parasite can be spread by bloodsucking insects.
“ Besnoitia tarandi is a coccidian protozoan that forms sand grain-like tissue cysts on the periosteum. Its main host is unknown. The intermediate host is reindeer, caribou or in North America also occasionally mule deer,” says Professor Antti Oksanen, Head of the Research Unit at Evira. The hard cysts may make skinning the animal more difficult. A sick animal is often referred to as a sand reindeer or in North America as an animal suffering from corn meal disease as the disease causes grain-like patterns on bones, for example.
A consequence of the Ice Age?
The parasites found in Finnish reindeer and American caribou are genetically very similar. It is assumed that Besnoitia tarandi developed during the Ice Age after Besnoitia besnoiti switched host. Perhaps the protozoan spread to America with domesticated reindeer.
Besnoitia besnoiti is regarded as a tropical parasite of ruminants, which has over the last decades spread in European cattle from the Iberian Peninsula towards the north and has already reached Germany. The parasite often causes a severe disease in cattle, and efforts are taken to prevent the disease from spreading. In Spain, this parasite of cattle has also been found in roe deer.
Read more about research on
Chioma Madubata, Detiger B. Dunams-Morel, Brett Elkin, Antti Oksanen, Benjamin M. Rosenthal
Evidence for a recent population bottleneck in an Apicomplexan parasite of caribou and reindeer, Besnoitia tarandi. Infection, Genetics and Evolution 2012: Vol. 12, No. 8, pp. 1605 - 1613.
For further information, please contact:
Antti Oksanen, Head of Research Unit for the Production Animal and Wildlife Health
tel. +358 44 561 6491