Necropsies were conducted on 4 Antillean manatees Trichechus manatus manatus that were stranded in single events on the coastal beaches of Puerto Rico from August 2010 to August 2011. Three manatees were emaciated and the gastrointestinal tracts were devoid of digesta. Microscopically, all manatees had severe widespread inflammatory lesions of the gastrointestinal tract and heart with intralesional tachyzoites consistent with Toxoplasma gondii identified by histological, ultrastructural and immunohistochemical techniques. The gastrointestinal lesions included severe, multifocal to diffuse, chronic-active enteritis, colitis and/or gastritis often with associated ulceration, necrosis and hemorrhage. Enteric leiomyositis was severe and locally extensive in all cases and associated with the most frequently observed intralesional protozoans. Moderate to severe, multifocal, chronic to chronic-active, necrotizing myocarditis was also present in all cases. Additionally, less consistent inflammatory lesions occurred in the liver, lung and a mesenteric lymph node and were associated with fewer tachyzoites. Sera (n = 30) collected from free-ranging and captive Puerto Rican manatees and a rehabilitated/released Puerto Rican manatee from 2003 to 2012 were tested for antibodies for T. gondii. A positive T. gondii antibody titer was found in 2004 in 1 (3%) of the free-ranging cases tested. Disease caused by T. gondii is rare in manatees. This is the first report of toxoplasmosis in Antillean manatees from Puerto Rico. Additionally, these are the first reported cases of disseminated toxoplasmosis in any sirenian. The documentation of 4 cases of toxoplasmosis within one year and the extremely low seroprevalence to T. gondiisuggest that toxoplasmosis may be an emerging disease in Antillean manatees from Puerto Rico.
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Disseminated toxoplasmosis in Antillean manatees Trichechus manatus manatus from Puerto Rico