Prevalence of Babesia odocoilei in Pennsylvania Elk

By Clay Steber, Nicole Chinnici, Justin Brown

Babesia odocoilei is a tick-borne protozoal parasite that infects the erythrocytes of members of the family Cervidae. Babesia odocoilei infection can cause hemolytic anemia and mortality within elk populations. Due to the isolated nature of PA elk populations they are at high risk for population decline.

In this study, blood samples were examined to determine the prevalence of Babesia odocoilei infections in harvested Pennsylvania elk. Samples were collected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission during the 2016 and 2017 Annual Pennsylvania Elk Hunt in four counties of central Pennsylvania; Cameron, Clearfield, Elk, and Centre County.

Total genomic DNA was extracted from 190 blood samples and analyzed using a nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which targeted the 18S rRNA gene for Babesia species. Samples that came back positive were then sequenced to confirm species as Babesia odocoilei.

Results of this study are pending publication, and as such will not be available until after publication has occurred. For more information on this project please email

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Nicole Chinnici
(570) 422-7891